Vittorio Ghielmi, guest director and soloist with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; ​Photo credit: Tafelmusik

Review by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
Toronto ON February 10th 2020

Vittorio Ghielmi, guest director and soloist with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; ​Photo credit: Dahlia Katz


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Vittorio Ghielmi and Tafelmusik dream Jupiter under the Super Moon​

Director Elisa Citterio (who did not play in yesterday’s performance) made a judicious choice in programming Dreaming Jupiter, a production directed and “curated” by Vittorio Ghielmi and played by him and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Ghielmi is a talented, young musician with a passion for his instrument and its repertoire. He has the enthusiasm and competence to realize important projects.

​The viola da gamba family is the forerunner of the more modern string family, its bridges flatter, allowing the possibility of playing more than one of its six strings at a time, C-holes instead of F-holes, and the bow held like that of the double bass, the fingers pressing against the bow hairs to control the pressure precisely and preserve the feeling of close contact with the strings.

When it was superseded by violin family, for example in the case of the most important instrumental ensemble in Europe at the time, the “24 violons,” or violins of the King of France, the gamba that is the forerunner of the cello remained, as a subtle, expressive holdover. As a child, Forqueray, one of the composers represented on the program, played the cello before the French king, and the monarch was so favourably impressed that he arranged for the young musician to learn the viola da gamba and study composition with the opera composer Lully, whose music was also featured on the program, alongside that of Rameau and lesser known composers of viola da gamba music.

The afternoon was set out as an alternation between works for full orchestra and solos for viola da gamba and continuo. The performances of the opening and closing pieces were those most worthy of praise.

The opening music was a movement entitled “Chaos” from a standalone ballet called The Elements, by Jean-Féry Rebel. It was a Deistic musical representation of creation, heretical in that the Deists held that the world was created, not from nothing, but out of chaos. Like most character pieces of the period, this one depicted the four elements (and chaos itself) through musical figures. These and the performance of the instrumentalists worked to good effect.

Citterio is also to be congratulated on her policy of commissioning new compositions in Baroque style, just as Opera Atelier has done with its commissioned production The Angel Speaks. Citterio invites guests to exercise their creative spirit in this way, to expand the repertoire of the orchestra, and maintain Baroque music as a living, growing stylistic genre. The expansive opening section of Ghielmi’s new work (entitled Jupiter, developing a solo work by Forqueray for full orchestra with new expressions) was a tour de force, a counterpart in its own way to the “Chaos” that opened the afternoon. The strings were “prepared” to give them the quality of gongs, and the section proceeded with controlled, subtle aleatoric fragments, making a musical depiction of Jupiter. Some of the oscillations resembled the Baroque musical-scientific justifications of the music of the spheres, in effect imagining the musical sound that the planetary orbits would make.

This section was very exciting and showed the scope of Ghielmi’s musical imagination. As this young, promising musician adds more authentic techniques to his tool box (for example notes inégales) the results will be even more exciting. We’ll all stay tuned! 

Tafelmusik will present The Indigo Project directed by Elisa Citterio and created by Alison Mackay in collaboration with Suba Sankaran & Trichy Sankaran at 8pm on February 27th, 28th and 29th and at 3:30pm on March 1st 2020 in Jeanne Lamon Hall at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and at 8pm on March 3rd 2020 in George Weston Recital Hall, Meridian Arts Centre (formerly Toronto Centre for the Arts) in North York.