There’s something about a season finale that whets the appetite for more.
In a season full of not-to-be-forgotten performances, Mélomanie closed its 2015-16 season on Sunday, May 8, with not one — but two — World Premieres, some neo-Baroque jazz, the usual suspects and an obscure delight.
Mélomanie harpsichordist and Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director Tracy Richardson dubbed the event a “big band concert” for the many special guests participating. Joining the ensemble’s core group were Rainer Beckmann on recorder, flutist Eve Friedman and cellist Naomi Gray. The additions made for a lively program of interesting material and musical combinations.
Ensemble with guest artists (L-R): Donna Fournier, Naomi Gray, Tracy Richardson,Christof Richter, Eve Friedman, Kimberly Reighley, Rainer Beckmann.
Photo by Tim Bayard.
The program also contained an appropriate pairing of works by Jean Baptiste Lully, arguably the quintessential French composer and inventor of French opera, and his contemporary Michel-Richard Delalande, who succeeded him at the court of Louis XIV. The former was represented with a spirited performance of the Passacaille from his operatic masterpiece Armide; the latter by the impressive chaconne from the obviously Lullian Les fontains de Versailles.
Mélomanie was also impressive in its rendering of the Piece de Clavecin en Concert 5 in D minor by Jean-Philippe Rameau, one of the most important French composers and theorists of the Baroque. Their playing was agile, warm-blooded and expressive and they listened carefully to what the harpsichord was doing, which is of vital importance.
If ever there was a composition suited for Mélomanie, it would be Matthias Maute’s It’s Summertime: A Trilogy (1998). Maute not only pays tribute to George Gershwin, he demonstrates the recorder’s abilities to play all styles of music. The work is made up of three movements. The first — “Don’t you cry” — is a ballad that quotes Bach’s Sarabande (from Partita in A minor for solo flute). The second — “The livin’ is easy” — is a jazz-oriented ballad that features a type of hidden two-part writing found in Telemann’s fantasies for flute. The third — “It’s Summertime” — is basically an arrangement of Gershwin’s tune of the same name.
The ability to play different types of music demands a mastery of different techniques, and Rainer Beckmann sure has the goods. His intonation was impeccable and his technique, thrilling and infectious. He had the audience fully engaged. He was supported in his playing by Naomi Gray on the modern cello. That combination of the Baroque and the contemporary was absolutely stunning.
The program also included the World Premiere of Liduino Pitombeira’s The Sound of the Sea and a first performance of his Impressoes Quixeres. The latter featured Kimberly Reighley and Eve Friedman dueting on modern flutes. This piece imparts the composer’s view of the city in northern Brazil employing free atonality as well as 12-tone serialism. But in the hands of Reighley and Friedman, you stop thinking about tone rows and respond to the playfulness and ferocity of the music.
The entire ensemble presented the premiere of Pitombeira’s The Sound of the Sea. This three-movement work is inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem of the same name. The titles of the three movements — “First Wave,” “Solitudes of Being” and “Sea-tides” — take their names from moments in the poem. Longfellow’s poem gives the composer much to draw on as it is a poem about sound, about the rhythm of the sea and that rhythm is reflected in the musicality of the lines and the score. Just as the poem, the music was meant to mirror the sound of the sea in all its fury and tranquility, and Mélomanie did the composer’s intentions proud.