Showing posts with label Michael Stambaugh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Stambaugh. Show all posts

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Mélomanie Opens Wilmington Series at The Delaware Contemporary

By Christine Facciolo

Mélomanie opened its 2016-17 Wilmington concert series at The Delaware Contemporary on Sunday, October 9 with a program that was both demanding and fascinatingly varied.

The program started off with a delightful rendering of Telemann’s Paris Quartet 3 in G Major. A description of the performance can be found in the titles of the movements themselves: Gracieusement, Vite, Gai. Gracious and spirited are exactly the qualities this music requires 
— and what the ensemble delivered.

Flutist Kimberly Reighley played a magical Baroque flute, rich in tone with spot-on intonation. She blended perfectly with Christof Richter’s violin, making their intertwining lines an endless source of listening pleasure. Gambist Donna Fournier supplied a judicious bass line: prominent where needed yet merging seamlessly with Tracy Richardson’s sublimely supportive harpsichord.

In a rare treat, Richardson soloed in a World Premiere of Michael Stambaugh’s Suite for Harpsichord. Stambaugh is a rising young (b.1990) Philadelphia-based composer whose unfettered imagination shows that an 18th Century instrument has just as much to say in the 21st Century.

The work — written during the summer — unfolds in four short movements (a fifth is being reworked): The Machine Comes to Life, A Mischievous Prelude, A Light Dance and Invention. Opening with a blizzard of notes and fluctuant harmonies and rhythms, the piece is a whimsical mélange of jazz, rock, heavy metal and funk which, oddly enough, did not seem so far removed from the 17th Century. One audience member thought it quasi-programmatic, as it followed the path of a machine from its “birth” to its taking on human characteristics and capabilities 
 a notion that surprised and intrigued the composer.

The playing was often difficult and taxing, but Richardson was superb and her efforts were appreciatively received by the audience.

The history of Western music is littered with tales of lost masterpieces and what-might-have-beens. Philipp Heinrich Erlebach (1657-1714) became one of those unfortunates when in 1736 when all but 70 of his 1000 compositions were destroyed in a fire at the court library at Rudolstadt.

The Sonata 5 in E Minor is just one of six sonatas to survive. As was common for the time, it was scored for violin, viola da gamba and basso continuo. But Erlebach’s sonatas differ from those of his contemporaries in that he gives the viola da gamba a genuinely independent part. In addition, Erlebach aims for a mixture of German, Italian and French styles: the dance movements being mainly Italian while German polyphony dominates the opening and closing movements.

Violinist Richter and gambist Fournier exhibited a deep appreciation for the strong character of this sonata, and their performance offered a pleasing and effective balance in their dialogues.

The concert closed with the Promenades for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu. Written between 1937 and 1944, the piece reflects the composer’s reaction to the horrors of World War II. The work opens calmly enough with a Bach-like allegro and air but then morphs into a sinister scherzo and a bitter, edgy finale. Reighley is impressive, playing with the precision and pristine quality she’s noted for, yet somehow managing to deliver a strident tone the music demanded.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Changes in venue for Mélomanie

Mélomanie is opening their twentieth season with great fanfare at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts.  This local ensemble has been commissioning new works and pairing them with baroque music for two decades and they are just about to launch a pairing with a hip arts center.  After playing for many years in historic Wilmington churches with great resonance and reverberation, the group is going to play in a venue which is more like a public center – a place to meet and greet.  This will present a less formal side of the ensemble and will draw attention to the fact that this group has been a prime mover in commissioning music in this area – an itinerant Delaware center for contemporary music.

The concert on Friday was at the Gore Recital Hall at the Roselle Center for the Arts – an intermediate-sized hall with a modicum of reverberation and, unfortunately, a very powerful and resonant air conditioning system.  Some of the audience who had been used to hearing the group play in stone churches felt that something was missing, yet the clear sounds of the articulation and ornaments in Tracy Richardson’s harpsichord playing was enhanced by the reduction of echo.  Her pristine performance of the Chaconne from Henry Purcell’s opera Dioclesian and the rapid ornaments in the French Suite in B Minor, BWV 814 provided a smooth beginning to introduce the world premiere Michael Stambaugh’s The machine comes to life for solo harpsichord, which Stambaugh introduced with comments on how the harpsichord differs from the piano in both mechanism and sound quality.  He did indeed do his homework for his harpsichord piece,  showing many features, including the harshness of the buff stop on Richardson’s Kingston harpsichord.

Kim Reighley, modern flute and Doug McNames, cello played Michael Colquhoun’s Three for two as one: a suite for flute and cello.  The use of percussive sounds, multiphonics, whistle tones and the weaving of parallel movement made this work particularly striking. 

And if there were any doubts about the acoustical possibilities in Gore Hall, they were dispelled after the intermission with the incredibly wide range of dynamics Christof Richter could produce on baroque violin.  At the beginning of a phrase, the sound was so soft that Mr. Richter’s bow moved before the audience could hear the sound swell in the Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1014 for violin and harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach.  And the colors of the sound Donna Fournier produced in the Carl Friedrich Abel Prelude and Allegro from the Suite in D Minor for viola da gamba were so rich and varied that a more resounding hall may have hidden some of those subtleties. 

Jennifer Margaret Barker introduced her world premiere of Le Passage du Temps as a re-composition of the third Bach French Suite which we heard in the first half of the program.  Her inventiveness in weaving the themes of Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue into an intricately orchestrated re-voicing of the beautiful solo keyboard work was a treat and an exemplary work by one of our local composition professors.  

Let us see what the sound at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts does to recast this concert on Sunday afternoon.