Monday, March 30, 2015

Maggio & Mélomanie Bring Aegean Airs to the DCCA

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Composer Robert Maggio
Despite rumors to the contrary, modern classical music can be melodic and fun. The lucky audience at Mélomanie’s concert on Sunday at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts got to hear two such works along with some fine representatives of the Baroque and pre-Classical periods.

The program featured the world premiere of Aegean Airs, a piece written especially for Mélomanie by West Chester, Pa.-based composer Robert Maggio. Maggio has been described as a versatile, passionate and eclectic composer. Not surprising since he grew up listening mostly to rock and Broadway musicals. He did not discover classical music or study “serious” composition until college.

Aegean Airs, which takes its inspiration from the composer’s recent trip to Greece, is unmistakably Maggio. The work consists of seven movements, the theme of which is a Delphic hymn the composer discovered on the Internet. The odd-numbered movements are contemporary arrangements and variations of this hymn, while the even-numbered movements draw on the Greek scales, melodies and rhythms of the pop-folk music the composer heard in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini during the summer.

Maggio and Mélomanie are magical. What better way to introduce a piece whose theme is the blending of the ancient and modern in present-day Greek culture than with an ensemble that blends the old and new in performance?

Alec Wilder (1907-1980) is another “fusion-type” composer whose work combines elements of jazz and the American popular song with classical European forms and techniques. His Suite for Harpsichord and Flute provided the perfect showcase for Kimberly Reighley’s superb talents. She produced a full, rich, luscious sonority, ably interpreting the contrasting moods of the three movements, especially the final one, “Keeping the Blues in Mind.”

J.S. Bach’s Suite in G Major for Unaccompanied Cello showcased the playing of Douglas McNames. The Suites for Cello are among the most popular works by Bach and represent a challenge for every cellist. McNames was more than up to the challenge. The Prelude, one of the most recognizable works for the instrument, was wonderfully spacious. But it was in the dances that he was outstanding, full of understated nuances in rhythm and phrasing.

The “style gallant” was nicely represented by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain’s Sonata III in D Minor. The work attempts to create true “conversations” among the instruments and the result was a truly delightful listen.

Speaking of Bach, the concert opened with an engaging and sublime performance of the Sonata in A Major by the pre-Classical composer Carl Friedrich Abel, close friend and concertizing partner of J.S. Bach’s son, J.C. Bach, and one of the last virtuosos of the viola da gamba.


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