Thursday, February 9, 2017

Mélomanie Premieres Local Composer's Work, Features Violin Duos in February Performance

By Christine Facciolo

Mélomanie opened the second half of its 2016-17 season with an eclectic program that showcased the talents of two virtuoso violinists and featured the World Premiere of a commissioned work by organist/conductor David Schelat.
Violinists Daniela Pierson and Christof Richter. Photo by Tim Bayard.
The ensemble welcomed Daniela Pierson, principal violist with Philadelphia’s Tempesta di Mare and conductor of that city’s Musicopia String Orchestra. In addition, she has performed on violin or viola with many early music groups including New Society, New York Collegium and Washington Cathedral Baroque Orchestra.

Pierson teamed with Melomanie resident violinist Christof Richter to perform selections from Bela Bartok’s 44 Duos for 2 Violins, which were interspersed throughout the program. Although the composer never intended these pedagogical exercises to be played in concert, these fine artists performed with a style and accuracy that helped to reveal composer’s limitless imagination and his ability to write in the historic styles of Eastern and Central European ethnic groups.

Pierson said the duo chose to perform the selections on Baroque violins rather than modern instruments because, as she explained in an interview during the concert, that’s probably the way the composer heard the original folk melodies.

Pierson and Richter also delivered an outstanding and refined interpretation of Les Folies d’Espagne by the Italian Jean-Pierre Guignon, who brought that country’s musical style to Paris via the famed Concert Spirituel.

Pierson and Richter were joined by Tracy Richardson on harpsichord and gambist Donna Fournier in a performance of Archangelo Corelli’s Sonata de Chiese in A Major, the last of the set of twelve published as Op. 3 in 1689. Though modest, the music of this Italian composer-violinist was key to the development of the modern genres of sonata and concerto, in establishing the preeminence of the violin and in the coalescing of modern tonality and functional harmony.

Pierson and Richter engaged in a lovely duet in thirds during the second movement. Fournier provided heroic support, confidently executing demanding semiquavers. The piece concluded with three short Allegros, the last of which an attractive fugue in gigue form.

By far, the lengthiest work on the program belonged to Couperin’s well-known La Piemontoise, the fourth Ordre from Les Nations, his masterful dictum on the merger of the French and Italian styles. The concert opened with the Italianate sonata of the ordre and closed with its elaborate French dance suite. Mélomanie executed the ornamentation crisply and with ease, and did a beautiful job with Couperin’s harmonic color.

Just a Regular Child for flute and harpsichord by organist/conductor David Schelat added a charming levity to the program. Schelat introduced the work by explaining how he took inspiration from growing up as a regular kid in a regular home in a regular town in Ohio. The work consisted of three movements. “Rough and Tumble” and “Full of the Old Nick” conjure up the delightful — and sometimes misguided — energy of a very active and curious child while the loping melody of “Dreaming” catches him in his quieter moments.

Schelat wrote to flutist Kimberly Reighley’s amazing virtuosity, and she did not disappoint. Reighley executed the first and last movements with a pearly lightness and purity of tone while rendering a gauzy quality to the middle movement. Richardson supplied the contemporary harmonies which gave the work a mischievous quality.


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