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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON December 4th 2017
Yesterday’s concert by Tafelmusik at Jeanne Lamon Hall at the Trinity St. Paul Centre pushed forward by a few days the annual arrival of Christmas oriented programs. It was also mainly music that has never been heard on the Tafelmusik stage.
The programme had been designed before the arrival of Elisa Citterio, Tafelmusik's new Music Director. According to harpsichordist and organist Charlotte Neidger in her pre-concert chat, the program construction began with a suggestion of Ivars Taurins, Director of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, when he proposed performing Mark Antoine Charpentier’s Messe des Morts and a wedding anthem by Handel. The group of musicians charged with programming in the absence of a Music Director’s input, then came up with two complimentary works for the orchestra that happened to be associated with royal weddings. With now three wedding pieces and a funeral mass, the reference to the film Four Weddings and a Funeral wouldn’t be complete without another wedding piece, and so, Pachelbel’s Canon was added. This canon may not have been written for a wedding, but according to Neidiger, it has been played at enough modern weddings to qualify as wedding music. Finally a coronation anthem was chosen and suddenly there was Four Weddings, a Funeral, and a Coronation.
The title of the program was cute, but the music of the French and English court was sublime. The order of the program was roughly chronological. The pre-concert chat amplified the historically informative program notes to the extent that one could imagine being in the wedding chapels of the royalty. Only the baroque decorations and costumes were missing.
Beginning in the mid-baroque, Citterio led the orchestral music of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Ballet from Xerxes with abounding energy. It was notable to see various members of the ensemble taking up solo parts. This was followed by another mid-baroque work by Henry Purcell, Symphony and airs from Ode “From hardy climes”. The Purcell wetted my appetite to hear the entire work with songs and choruses.
Music Director Elisa Citterio and Choir Director Ivars Taurins
Photo credit: Jeff Higgins
Four Weddings and a Funeral…add a coronation and the result is a great concert!
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir; Photo credit: Jeff Higgins
The next work was John Blow’s anthem for the coronation of James II in 1685, God spake sometime in visions. The eight-part choral work with strings was a glorious expression of Psalm 89. Ivars Taurins can be applauded for the tonal beauty and clarity that he achieved.
The Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and continuo gave Citterio along with fellow violinists Thomas Georgi and Julia Wedman an opportunity to display their virtuosic playing in a popular work that for once was heard as Pachelbel intended. Kudos to Tafelmusik for not filling in with the full complement of strings and winds.
In the second half of the program, the choir and orchestra combined again for Charpentier’s Messe des Morts H.10 and again for Handel’s Overture and Chorus “S’accndapur” from Il parnasso in festa. I was particularly impressed by the solo work from various choir members. The program indicated that two of the soloists, Marjolaine Horreaux and Matthew Li are recent alumni from Tafelmusik’s Artist Training Program. Another new addition to the choir, Victoria Marshall displayed a warm mezzo voice in her solo. For an ensemble that has impressively stable membership, the Tafelmusik Choir is doing well with its renewal efforts. For this listener, soprano Michele DeBoer’s beautifully soaring soprano voice was a highlight of the performance. The orchestra performed at its energetic and expressive best in the Overture to the Handel work.
Handel’s Messiah is up next for Tafelmusik on December 13-16 at Koerner Hall and December 17 as a sing-along at Massey Hall. The soloists will be Joanne Lunn, soprano, James Laing, countertenor, Rufus Müller, tenor, and Brett Pelegato, baritone.