The award-winning ensemble, known for its provocative pairings of early and contemporary works, has established a relationship with the Delaware Historical Society, which will host its Wilmington performances at Old Town Hall adjacent to the organization’s museum on North Market Street in downtown Wilmington.
Mélomanie also welcomed the addition of Ismar Gomes, award-winning cellist who has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician.
|The ensemble performs Christopher Cook's piece, Hubble's Eye. Photo by Tim Bayard.|
The entire ensemble opened the program with a technically accomplished and courtly rendering of Couperin’s La Sultane, one of the composer’s most colorful instrumental works.
Two members of the ensemble chose to perform works by contemporary composers writing in the “old style.” Violinist Christof Richter captured the fragile delicacy of Alfred Schnittke’s Pantomime, a piece that despite its charming melody features bare, exposed rhythms, striking pizzicati and searing dissonance.
Gomes offered some very impressive playing in works by Benjamin Britten and Luciano Berio. Berio’s Les mots sont alles for solo cello uses as its foundation Britten’s Tema Sacher, a musical rendering of Swiss conductor Paul Sacher’s last name. Gomes’ handling of this complex miniature masterpiece was riveting.
Gomes joined with gambist Donna Fournier for a performance of Jean Daniel Braun’s Sonata Sesta in D major for two bass instruments. It’s not often that two such instruments get paired in a composition, so this was a rare treat indeed. Their beautiful burnished tones produced goosebumps, especially in the slower movements.
Fournier gave a splendid performance of Telemann’s intimate but technically difficult Fantasia in G minor, one of 12 works discovered in 2015.
Harpsichordist and Mélomanie co-artistic director Tracy Richardson gave a spot-on reading of Jacques Duphly’s finely wrought and thoroughly enjoyable Courante (from Book 1) for solo harpsichord.
Flutist Kimberly Reighley (also co-artistic director) offered one of the most interesting pieces of the afternoon. Le Vent a Travers Les Ruines by Yuko Uebayashi. Reighley’s pristine tone and perfect intonation underscored the placid, non-judgmental character of the work, the later stages of which explore the instrument’s lower register as it moves to bring this intriguing work to an understated conclusion.
The ensemble (sans cello) regrouped for the Delaware Premiere of Christopher Cook’s ethereal Hubble’s Eye, a multimedia musical interpretation of the jaw-dropping images taken by the Hubble space telescope.
While one might be tempted to draw comparisons with Holst’s The Planets, Cook has undoubtedly imbued this seven-movement work with his own voice. Saturn is mysterious yet delicate. Mars is definitely a strong character with decisive rhythms and emphatic chords but hardly bellicose. The work exhibits some programmatic elements as well: the harpsichord “climbs and descends” the Mystic Mountain of the Carina Nebula, while the Supernova Bubble is buoyant and whimsical.
The trio of Reighley, Richter and Richardson concluded the event with another Delaware Premiere, Café au Triolet by Cynthia Folio. Folio, a Temple University music professor, wrote the work for Ensemble Triolet, which premiered it in 2016 at the National Flute Association Convention.
The first movement (Caramel Macchiato) takes the instruments out of their comfort zones to explore the full range of their capabilities. Special attention is given to the harpsichord, which Folio says she got to know up close and personal in the harpsichord room at Temple’s Boyer School of Music. The second movement (Café do Brazil) is a lively fugue spiced with Brazilian rhythms and harmonies.