Jeanne Lamon directed Tafelmusik from 1981 to 2014; yesterday she led the ensemble in a performance of classical-period music. Tafelmusik is specialized in the Baroque period, but this repertoire is well within its purview.

The afternoon began with Mozart’s Symphony in G minor K 183, composed in 1773. The orchestra had 9 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos, a bass, a flute, two oboes, two bassoons, and four horns (the right size), and therefore producing the right sound for this repertoire, especially the elegant qualities in Mozart’s phrasing and balance. A harpsichord could have been included—the keyboard continuo would have been the composer’s position—instead, Lamon played her violin from the podium as the ‘leader,’ a practice well documented in the period.

The tempi were well chosen, and the elements of musical dialogue emerged from the texture clearly. At points in the minuet and trio, it was easy to imagine one was listening to opera.

Scott Weavers was the soloist for the performance of Mozart’s Concerto no. 4 for horn in E-Flat Major K 495, composed in 1786. If a baroque oboe is hard to control (it is), playing a natural horn is an adventure of a different order. Valves became standard on horns in the mid-19th century. The instructions in Wagner’s score for Tristan and Isolde (1865), for example, specify their use, necessary for all the chromatic pitches the horns must play in that extended work.

Compared to the other brass instruments, the horn plays higher in the harmonic or overtone series. For this reason the overtones are close together and it is possible, sometimes by altering the pitch with the hand inside the bell, to play all of the notes needed, without valves. This is not easy, and “stopping” the notes with the hand changes the tone, but that must have been what Mozart had in his ear. In effect the chromatic pitches, the semitones, including the raised sevenths in the minor scale, have quite a different timbre, which ought to be considered part of the conception of the piece. Indeed those pitches present quite a different sound to the listener, giving the scale a distinctive sonic profile. One could compare this with the sound of semitones on an organ not tuned in equal temperament.

Weavers performed with poise and ease. An extra circle was added to the sixteen feet of coiled metal tubing his instrument already had, to transpose it to the correct key. His cadenza in the first movement exploited the full range of the horn, including the fundamental pitch. The full house was very appreciative of the fine performance by soloist and orchestra.

The second half of the afternoon began with the Symphony in C minor, VB. 142 by Joseph Martin Kraus, who worked in Stockholm, composed in 1783. The orchestra gave a sensitive rendition of the slow, contrapuntal opening. Haydn expressed admiration for this work, and it was very interesting to listen to it, imagining which qualities he particularly enjoyed in it: contrasts of texture, harmonies, intriguing counterpoint, or phrasing, all commendable and appealing.

The last work on the program was Haydn’s Symphony no. 73 in D major, known as the Hunt, composed in 1782. The first movement includes a hunting call as a musical motive, which must have pleased his patron Prince Esterházy. The horns were “re-crooked” for the minuet, changing the additional tubing to play in the new key. The fast finale of this symphony is actually an overture Haydn originally wrote for an opera at Esterháza. It was a fitting, brilliant conclusion to this delightful program. Principal cellist Christina Mahler was acknowledged (this was her last performance with the ensemble) for her 38 years in that position. Altogether this event was well undertaken and very satisfying to attend, a very suitable afternoon for an ensemble celebrating its fortieth year of musical excellence.

​​by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
oronto ON April 28th 2019

Jeanne Lamon, Music Director Emerita, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra:
​Photo credit: Sian Richards

Jeanne Lamon Leads in Jeanne Lamon Hall: Tafelmusik performs Mozart, Kraus, and Haydn


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Jeanne Lamon, Music Director Emerita, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra:
​Photo credit: Sian Richards