© Sian Richards
© Sian Richards
Tafelmusik enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s top Baroque orchestras, based around an ensemble of 17 players, each a specialist in historic performance practices. Since 1981, the Toronto-based period instrument orchestra has been under the inspired leadership of Music Director Jeanne Lamon, with its home hall being named after her. Lamon steps down from the role this year. Tafelmusik collaborates with other leading Baroque practitioners in a mouth-watering series of programmes for its 2014-15 season.
Tafelmusik © Sian Richards
© Sian Richards

The early part of the season finds the ensemble on its travels (musically speaking), making journeys across the Atlantic to Italy, England and France. The Canals of Venice, features music by – unsurprisingly – Venetian-born Antonio Vivaldi, who wrote many of his compositions for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà in the city. But there’s more to Venice than the Red Priest! A gondolier, played by Commedia dell’arte actor Alessandro Bressanello, guides us along Venice’s canals, narrating a course through the works of Vivaldi, Tomaso Albinoni and Benedetto Marcello. Davide Monti leads from the violin.

A programme of English Baroque – entitled Theatre of Magic – directed by Pavlo Beznosiuk pivots around a trio of works inspired by magic and magicians. Matthew Locke wrote his incidental music to The Tempest for a new version of the play by Thomas Shadwell, first performed in 1674. Purcell’s The Fairy Queen was also inspired by Shakespeare, in this case by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Joélle Harvey, who starred in Glyndebourne’s staged production, sings excerpts from Purcell’s sublime score. After Prospero and Oberon, our third magician is Armida, sorceress in Handel’s opera Rinaldo. The “Suite for Armida” contains several of her fiendish arias.

A dash across the English Channel leads listeners to The French Connection, directed by violinist Amandine Beyer. Jean-Philippe Rameau, who died 250 years ago, is celebrated with his ballet suite from his opera Zaïs, while the concert also features works by Corrrette, Campra and Leclair. Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les elemens, an extraordinary work which depicts the creation of the world, concludes the programme.

Christmas brings with it Handel’s Messiah, including an opportunity to flex your vocal cords in a singalong.

Kent Nagano swaps his Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal for a period band in January, taking on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Tafelmusik has an enviable reputation for its no-nonsense, punchy Beethoven under Bruno Weil (much if it available on disc), so it will be interesting to consider Nagano’s approach. The Mass in C also features in the heavyweight programme.

Nothing demonstrates Tafelmusik’s innovative programming more than House of Dreams, where art and music meet in a multimedia extravaganza. Five European houses are explored – in London, Venice, Delft, Paris and Leipzig – in a programme conceived and scripted by Alison MacKay, narrated by Blair Williams. Paintings by Vermeer, Canaletto and Watteau feature as works from various Baroque composers are performed.

In another multimedia event, The Circle of Creation, Jeanne Lamon leads Tafelmusik in an exploration of Johann Sebastian Bach and his world, including the artisans – paper-makers, violin-makers – who helped him realize his genius.

Baroque Misbehaving promises “an orchestral romp” through works where murder, mayhem and wild antics occur. Purcell’s Abdelazer is mostly known to audiences now for the rondeau theme which Benjamin Britten used in his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Subtitled “The Moor’s Revenge”, it is based on the English revenge tragedy Lust’s Dominion. The concert also contains music from Charpentier’s Circe, which features a sorceress who turns her love rival into a woodpecker!

The season concludes with the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir joining the orchestra for a choral programme of Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Vivaldi’s Gloria RV589, the most famous of his settings.


This article is sponsored by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.