Mélomanie celebrated its 25th anniversary at its season-opening concert at The Delaware Contemporary on Sunday, October 29, 2017.
And what better way to mark a Silver Anniversary than with a World Premiere of a composition commissioned to commemorate the Golden Anniversary of a couple known for their devotion to Mélomanie. But more about that later...
Flutist and Mélomanie co-artistic director Kimberly Reighley opened the program with the shimmering notes and flowing contours of Ingrid Arauco’s Silver (Variation diabellique). This was a fitting choice for this particular occasion, as the Delaware-based Arauco composed the piece to mark the 25th anniversary of another ensemble, Philadelphia’s Network for New Music.
Reighley was then joined by Mélomanie harpsichordist and co-artistic director Tracy
Richardson for a talk about the ensemble’s beginnings and accomplishments with Jennifer Margaret Barker, professor of music theory and composition at the University of Delaware.
Reighley and Richardson then came together in a lovely performance of the Sonata in G Minor attributed to J.S. Bach but now believed to be by his son C.P.E. This is a charming work that features a true interplay between flute and harpsichord. The lilting Adagio gives much melodic interest to the harpsichord while the flute plays long notes. The last movement features an extended harpsichord solo which gave listeners the opportunity to hear Richardson’s consummate technique and clear, crisp sound.
Equally charming was Abel’s Quartet in G Minor. This work — scored for flute, violin, viola da gamba and cello — is one of a collection of 10 quartets for this instrumentation. Published in 1794, it is the only quartet to have survived with this specific scoring.
This two-movement work typifies the sort of music one might have heard in the intimate setting of the home of a patron. The performance was very smooth. The players exhibited a fine sensitivity to each other, creating a nice set of interactions that brought out the nuances of this delicately wrought music.
The second half of the program was taken up with the World Premiere of Up to the Light by Mark Hagerty. This was Hagerty’s fourth commission for Mélomanie and one of his most interesting and inventive. The 25-minute work was commissioned by Mona Bayard for her husband Tim Bayard in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. Tim is a founding board member of Mélomanie, and both he and Mona are active supporters of and volunteers in the arts and education.
Up to the Light is a work scored for flute, violin, viola da gamba, cello, harpsichord and vibraphone. Hagerty included the vibraphone in a nod to Tim Bayard’s deep appreciation of jazz. Here it was played by guest percussionist, Chris Hanning.
Up to the Light is a musical description of a journey from a troubling experience to one of a positive feeling, all the while retaining the pain of the earlier trauma. In this work, sonorities (i.e., specific harmonies and their arrangements and tone colors), rather than traditional melodies, convey the emotion experienced during the journey.
The work presents three major statements of these sonorities, at the opening, the midpoint and the end. Sandwiched between these statements are passacaglias — sometimes strict, sometimes informal — based on a melody introduced by the flute.
Especially effective was the incorporation of a single orchestral bell, which added a somber or joyous tone, depending on the musical context.
Hagerty indulged Tim Bayard’s love of jazz by skillfully folding the timbre of the vibraphone into the texture and by the subtle introduction of jazz-influenced harmonies into the tonal fabric of the work.