Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mélomanie and The (Conscious) Universe Come Together

By Christine Facciolo
Mélomanie performs with guest artists
Kevin J. Cope, composer/guitarist and Todd Thiel, cello.

Music and physics have a long and storied relationship. The Greeks used musical constructions to explain the orbits of the planets. Even today, popular science books like Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe use musical analogies to explain string theory.

So it came as no surprise when composer/guitarist Kevin J. Cope told the audience for Mélomanie on Sunday that his passion for physics and cosmology provided the inspiration for "Conscium Universum (The Conscious Universe)," the work written especially for and premiered by the ensemble at its October concerts.

The composition features musical depictions of four major discoveries: The Copernican Revolution (multiple, revolving melodies); Einsteinian Relativity (rhythms that illustrate time slippage); Quantum Mechanics (melodic particles tossed among the instruments) and Hubble’s Law (simple melodies that slowly drift away from each other).

Needless to say, the musicians had a lot of fun with this piece, especially Richardson who played a “drunk dance” on the harpsichord in the second section.

The concert also featured Cope performing another of his compositions, “Kuitra,” for solo guitar. The guitar is not an instrument that gets a lot of attention from contemporary classical composers. Many are wary of its idiosyncrasies and limitations, unless, of course, like Cope, they hold a master’s degree in guitar performance.

Kuitra is a mesmerizing piece, written at a time when Cope had an abiding interest in Arabian harmonies. But not so much that he wasn’t averse to season it with a bit of the Latin.

Mélomanie violinist Christof Richter and guest cellist Todd Thiel teamed up to offer a picture of Hungary with a performance of Hungarian Folk Melodies by Bela Bartok. These duos are relatively modest Bartok but each has so much dimension and incident that it constitutes a remarkably miniature world. Richter and Thiel play in full classical tone but without smoothing over the rough edges, imparting a rustic quality to the performance.

Richardson and Cope came together to perform two rarely heard gems from the Beethoven catalog: the Sonatina in C Minor and the Adagio in E-Flat Major. These pieces were originally scored for harpsichord and mandolin, an instrument that was enjoying a period of popularity among the cultured nobility when Beethoven was a young composer. Both are charming pieces that reveal the nature of salon music in 18th Century Vienna and the budding talents of the young composer.

Rounding out the program were a Sonata in A Minor by Telemann whose chamber works were well-known for their considerable panache and Quantz’s Quartet No. 5 in C Major, a splendidly vigorous and inventive contrapuntal work, quite different in style from his rather gallant flute concertos.

The ensemble performs the concert again on Sunday, October 25, at the Smyrna Opera House, in partnership with Gable Music Ventures. Tickets for that performance are still available at

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