Saturday, September 24, 2016
Friday, March 18, 2016
Just when you thought Icelandic music had nothing to offer beyond singer Bjork and post-rock band Sigur Ros, Mélomanie ups and offers a superb entree to the vibrant and varied musical traditions of this island nation.
Sunday’s concert at The Delaware Contemporary (formerly The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts) featured internationally known Icelandic violinist Eva Ingolf on electric violin as well as two World Premieres by composer Mark Hagerty: Raven Thoughts (Hrafna Hugsanir) and Icelandic Songs, Sacred & Secular (Islensk log, helg og veraldlega).
The concert kicked off with two rare gems by Scandinavian Baroque composers Johan Helmich Roman and Johan Aggrell. Roman was the first native Swedish composer of international influence, earning him the titles “the father of Swedish music” or “the Swedish Handel.” He traveled extensively throughout Europe, exposing himself to a variety of musical styles, chiefly from Handel and other contemporary Italian composers. The combination of flutist Kimberly Reighley, cellist Douglas McNames and violinist Christof Richter brought out the Neapolitan influence of Roman’s Trio in G minor with its restless harmonies and continually shifting melodic gestures.
|Mélomanie performs with guest artist Eva Ingolf (far right). Photo by Tim Bayard.|
Ingolf offered a performance of her own composition, Lava Flow, a sonic description of the 2011 eruption of Grimsvotn, Iceland’s most active volcano. Searing high notes and a violently cascading melodic line call to mind the magnitude of the event which was the largest in Iceland in 50 years.
That performance warmed her up for the World Premiere of Mark Hagerty’s Raven Thoughts (Hrafna Hugsanir), a four-movement work for solo violin. The raven (or hrafn) is an important bird in Icelandic folklore. It is said that the Norse god Odin had two ravens that counseled him.
It is the intelligence and communication skills of these big black birds that inspired Hagerty to compose Raven Thoughts, which posits ideas — rather than any specific representation — about ravens. Ingolf’s playing is sublime and her articulation and tone impeccable as she moved through the urgency of “Danger,” the intense tragedy of “Loss,” the loopiness of “Flight” and the accomplishment of “Survival.”
Members of Mélomanie joined Ingolf in a performance of the program’s second World Premiere, Icelandic songs, sacred & secular (Islensk log heig og veraldlega) again by Mark Hagerty. It was Ingolf, whom the group met when they visited Rio in 2014, who introduced Hagerty to these traditional Icelandic songs that range in character from the robust to the elegant and hauntingly beautiful.
Hagerty preserves the character of these folk songs with quintal harmonies while imbuing them with a contemporary texture. The coupling of Ingolf’s electric violin with Donna Fournier’s viola da gamba in the sixth song Raven’s Song (Krummavisur) was stunning. The work was a perfect expression of Mélomanie's mission: the paring of contemporary and early — in this case medieval — music.
The only departure from the program’s Nordic theme was Partita 622, composed for Mélomanie (and included on its CD Excursions) by Mark Rimple. Written in 2008 following the death of his stepmother, the piece centers around the fascination she had with the number 622, which was reflected in the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars the day she died. Rimple structured the work around these three digits: the ritornellos appear six times, always a perfect fourth (2 + 2) higher before the composition ends, while the intervening passages are generated by multiples of and powers of 6 and 2.
Although written at the time of a death, the piece is not a lament but rather the contemplation of a mystery, in this case, the complexities of life. The title “partita” represents the “starting out” on a journey. Melodic themes are frenetically tossed among the instruments in a dissonant soup, until at the apex of tension, the themes are gathered in a slow sarabande-like postlude as the mystery remains.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
The October 29 season opening at Grace United Methodist Church was a lively production of new and old music – with the startling newness of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Paris Quartet No. 5 in A Major, TWV 43:A3 – which the artists split to play half before and half after the intermission. Two composers sitting beside me in the audience were marveling at how much more daring and even classical George Philipp Telemann (1681-1770) can be in his gallant style than his contemporary Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and I think they were quite right. The Telemann was zippy, rhythmically unusual and a great vehicle to show off the new member of the group, violinist Christof Richter, whom many in the audience have appreciated from his former appearances with Mėlomanie.
The Giuseppe Tartini Sonata in G Minor (The Devil’s Trill) was a more sedate piece which provided a bridge to Ingrid Arauco’s Silver (Variation diabellique) for solo flute which Arauco had composed for the 25th anniversary of Network for New Music. With the cold outside, snowflakes falling, the silvery tones of Kimberly Reighley’s modern flute made just the right atmosphere for a cold winter’s night. The shimmery sounds of Arauco’s flowing melodies filled the sanctuary with warm light.
Mark Rimple’s Sonata Circumdederunt me had an entirely different accent – of modernist tendencies and humor interspersed with a flash of technical virtuosity from Donna Fournier on the viola da gamba. The harpsichord accompaniment helped ground the harmonic base of the exploratory composition.
The second half of the concert started with the second half of the Telemann, which seemed almost as new as the 21st Century compositions we had just heard. Richter and Reighley led the merry chase of Telemann’s romp which was certainly a highlight. The concert ended with another 21st Century work, a tango in three movements by Christopher Calliendo.
The audience was given these musical treats plus a perk – a gift of a special blend of Pike Creek Coffee blended for Mėlomanie, named "Downtown Wilmo Blend" and branded with great photos of the group.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Arty went to the Blue Ball Barn for the October 3 Mélomanie Special Concert and Party, a fundraiser for their new recording of music by five regional composers: Ingrid Arauco, Chris Braddock, Mark Rimple, Mark Hagerty, and Chuck Holdeman. The Holdeman and Hagerty pieces have already been recorded at UD’s Gore Hall by Meyer Media. Composer Ingrid Arauco is eagerly anticipating the recording of her Florescence.
Tommie Almond, President of the Mélomanie Board, was the adroit mistress of ceremonies. Arty enjoyed hot hors d’oeuvres by Greenery Catering staff before sitting down to hear the full Mélomanie ensemble play a short overture and gigue by Georg Muffat, (1653-1704) followed by some Michel Corette (1707-1795) duos for viola da gamba and cello played by Donna Fournier and Doug McNames- an excellent illustration of the difference between the modern cello and its older cousin, the viola da gamba.
This first musical interlude concluded with a movement of Chris Braddock’s Close Tolerances, whose name he took from the concept of gears meshing in close tolerance just as musicians achieve a close tolerance of voices in ensemble.
Party guest Sally Milbury-Steen is also working on close tolerances of power sources in her efforts to wake Wilmington up to the need to transition away from carbon as advised by Rob Hopkins Transition Town movement.
The second musical interlude featured Fran Berge playing baroque violin in Marco Uccelini’s (1603-1680) toccata for violin and basso continuo, one of the first pieces to feature solo violin.
Chuck Holdeman described the third movement of his Sonate en Trio as “like a Hostess Twinkie with a surprise inside.”
The finale, Chaconne in E minor from Quartet 6 of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Paris Quartets, put the party in a joyful mood. Michael Foster, music librarian and radio host, suggested to composers Mark Hagerty and Chuck Holdeman to compose more pieces using the now obsolete technical innovations for violin by Marco Uccelini.
Composer Mark Rimple pulled the event’s winning raffle ticket: The prize of a party at Blue Ball Barn went to WSFS executive Drew Aaron. Aaron and his wife were at the party representing WSFS, a corporate sponsor of the Mélomanie CD project. He and his wife, Judy, will host their going-away party for his parents who are moving to Florida.
Arty had so much fun, he angled for an invite to the Aaron’s Blue Ball event, but didn’t get a nibble.