Sunday, January 15, 2012

Melomanie Concert-Magical Music!

Tonight was a magical night of music from the unique and provocative chamber music ensemble, Melomanie. (The setting is shown above.)  This ensemble has it all: top drawer performers, an active and informed board, and enthusiastic followers.  They fill a niche: all performers are equally virtuosic on Baroque era and modern instruments.  Co-directors Tracy Richardson, (harpsichord) and Kimberly Reighley (flutist) design programs that combine modern, often world premiere works, with music from the Baroque.  The combination works very beautifully.

Tonight we heard works from Telemann, Couperin, and Boismotier, all from the Baroque, and Mark Hagerty and Kile Smith (world premiere) who are both very much alive and among us!

Kile Smith's musical voice is unique and compelling.  His world premiere of "The Nobility of Women" was a total triumph.  The 20 minute work takes its name from the 1600 dance instruction manual Nobilta di Dame by Fabrito Caroso.  But the connection ends there.  Captivated by the sound of the Baroque instruments, Kile set out to create a sound world based on this, with the expanded harmonic palette of our current time.  The result is entrancing.  This is not simply "accessible" music, it is music that meets you on a common musical plane, and then goes from there.  The eight movements (Overture, Allemande, Branle, Musette, Canario, Sarabande, Branle Reprise, and Ciaccona) each feature one of the instruments (Baroque flute, oboe, violin, harpsichord, Gamba, and cello.)  All movements were characterized by Smith's fresh harmonic language, and counterpoint (this is counterpoint that is not always  imitative-very interesting!) and instrumentation which reminds me of operatic ensembles in which each character retains their personality.

What fun it was to realize that the Mark Hagerty's  piece, "Variations on a theme by Steely Dan" had been written for The Modern Harpsichord Ensemble, of which I was a member many years ago.   This seemingly lightweight work (note: none of Hagerty's music is lightweight) combines so many traditions:  Charlie Mingus, the Viennese School of the 1930's, Baroque-style ornamentation, and then the best:  the layering of L'Apres midi d'un Faun, Syrinx, and the Girl with Flaxen Hair by Debussy, and earlier on, Chanson Medicasses.  It made many of us in the audience shake our heads in memory or humor, and share the cleverness of the composer. Mark Hagerty's music opens so many doors to musical adventure.

The rest of the program was beautifully performed and included a stunning Suite in d minor of Bousmortier performed by viola a gamba-ist Donna Fournier and Tracy, the Telemann Quartet in G Major from Tafelmusik 1 of Telemann, and the Quartet in d minor of Couperin. See what I mean about provocative programming! 

Note to chamber music ensembles: DO WHAT THIS ENSEMBLE DOES!!!  They have created a niche and are becoming a force in the cultural life of Delaware and southeastern PA.

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