Showing posts with label Naomi Gray. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Naomi Gray. Show all posts

Monday, April 10, 2017

NYC Composer's Work Highlight of Diverse Repertoire from Mélomanie

By Christine Facciolo

Mélomanie, the critically acclaimed ensemble known for its provocative pairings of early and contemporary works, capped off its 2016-17 season with a program tilted a bit more toward the contemporary than usual.

Joining regulars Kimberly Reighley, flute; Christof Richter, violin; Donna Fournier, viola da gamba; and Tracy Richardson, harpsichord were guest artists Naomi Gray, cello and Joshua Kovach, clarinet.

Mélomanie performs at The Delaware Contemporary near the Wilmington Waterfront.
Photo by Tim Bayard.
Mélomanie also welcomed flutist/composer Bonnie McAlvin whose work Sandstone Peak received its World Premiere at this concert. McAlvin explained how her fascination with mountains — in this case the highest peak of the Santa Monica Mountains — inspired the composition. The work is in four movements: Illusion, Conversation, Throne of Sand and Everywhere at Once, throwing a nod to Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

McAlvin is a clever composer who skillfully adapts the serial technique to tell a story of illusion, erosion and feeling exposed. Throughout the composition, the row becomes dismantled and recombined reappearing in each movement in various guises and instrumental textures. The effect is one of fantasy and vulnerability.

Gray and Kovach combined their talents to perform Private Games by Israeli composer Shulamit Ran and Night Music by Parisian Nicolas Bacri. The former is a brief, jagged work full of disjointed gestures that somehow manages to convey a lyrical underpinning. The duo — both as an entity and as individuals — tossed off the fiendishly difficult passages with grace and ease.  They convincingly brought out the chill in Night Music, a non-lyrical piece that glumly muses suggestions of inimical fate.

Richardson, Reighley and Kovach collaborated in a charming performance of the Sonatine en Trio, Op. 85 by Florent Schmitt, the most important French composer you probably never heard of, according to self-styled Schmitt expert Phillip Nones, who offered his thoughts on the composer and the work.

Schmitt (1870-1958) had no affinity for atonality or neo-classicism. Instead, he composed lushly lyrical music bursting with a profusion of ideas. Nones noted that this particular work has also been scored for flute, clarinet and piano as well as violin, cello and piano. But the musicians noted, in a post-concert discussion, that the harpsichord gave the work a lighter, brighter tone.

The flute and clarinet combined to produce another interesting aural feature. At times they seemed to blend so thoroughly that resulting sound was neither that of flute nor that of clarinet but a seemingly altogether different instrument with a sound all its own.

Vittorio Rieti’s Variations for Flute, Clarinet, Violin and Cello on When From My Love by John Bartlet was written in 1964 and dedicated to the memory of composer Paul Hindemith. This was a charming performance of this delightful little work consisting of nine variations and a code. It was an apropos selection for a Mélomanie program, as it combined the baroque with the contemporary.

The musicians of Mélomanie gave a nod to the Baroque with a performance of Marin Marais’ Suite 6 n C minor (from Pieces en Trio 1692) which preceded the two halves of the program.

The ensemble’s final performance for the 2016-17 season will be a special Mother’s Day Brunch and Concert on Sunday, May 14. Tickets are available at

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mélomanie Closes 2015-16 Season with "Big Band" Concert & Another Premiere

By Christine Facciolo
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 concert opened with a superb interpretation of Johann Christian Schieferdecker’s Musicalisches Concert 1 in A minor. Great fun was had in the galloping rhythms which drove the Overture. The fast dance movements were executed with appropriate gusto while the slower ones were affecting. The suite also contained a fine example of a Chaconne, a Schieferdecker favorite.

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.