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TAFELMUSIK paints a virtuosic picture of Intimate German Baroque

Toronto Concert Reviews in Toronto

Baritone Peter Harvey with Jeanne Lamon and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON January 20th 2017

If one were to ask you to consider a concert of “B” composers, your first guess might be that it would feature the music Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. That guess would give you only one correct answer out of five for last night’s concert by Tafelmusik at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul Centre. You would have had to add Biber, Buxtehude, Böddecker, and J.C. Bach to the more famous Bach to come up with the right answer.

​​Jeanne Lamon, Music Director of Tafelmusik from 1981-2014 was welcomed back to curate a program of what she called Intimate German Baroque "to warm up a cold January evening with a cozy gathering of musicians and listeners”. The concert allowed the audience to get a little closer to some of the artists of the orchestra.

With only ten of the orchestra’s regulars performing, and never the ten together in the same work, Lamon found an intimate program that gave glimpses into the virtuosity of the principal players and especially the guest artist, British baritone Peter Harvey. At the same time the program expressed the joys and sorrows of life’s journey in a very emotionally moving and inspiring way.

Violinists Jeanne Lamon and Julia Wedman as well as Dominic Teresi on dulcian took their turns to display their virtuosity in instrumental works that were interspersed with three sacred works featuring Peter Harvey. The program began with H.L.F. von Biber’s Sonata No. 1 from ‘Fidicinium sacro-prfanum’, a work with short contrasting sections that at times danced and other times balanced the dance with solemnity. Lamon led a small ensemble consisting of two violins, two violas, dulcian, lute, violone and organ.

Following intermission, another work by Biber, Sonata No. 3 for violin and continuo gave Wedman the opportunity to dazzle the audience with her spirited and humour-filled performance. Similarly Teresi thrilled everyone with his wizardry on the dulcian, the precursor to the modern bassoon, in Philipp Friedrich Böddecker’s Sonata sopra La Monica, from ‘Sacra Paritura’.

The biggest story of this concert was Peter Harvey who brought his rich and sonorous voice to give stirring performances of three cantatas. The first of these was Dietrich Buxtehude’s solo cantata Mein Herz ist bereit, a song of praise that the renowned British baritone sang with warmth and conviction. Johann Christoph Bach’s Lament ‘Wie bist du den, O Gott’ was a gripping song of sorrow and despair. The concert concluded with J.S. Bach’s Cantata 82 ‘Ich habe genug’. Harvey sang about the prospect of life after death with conviction. John Abberger displayed tonal warmth in the oboe obligato in this work.

Harvey is celebrated for his mastery of early music. His catalogue of recordings is seemingly endless and he performs with orchestras throughout Europe and North America. He is featured on many of Jean Elliot Gardiner’s recordings of the complete J.S. Bach Cantatas entitled The Bach Cantata Pilgrimage. Harvey lived up to his reputation in every way. His singing was emotional, stylistic and tonally rich. He demonstrated his superb artistry with every note he sang.

The program will be repeated tonight and tomorrow night at 8pm and again on Sunday at 3:30pm. The next concert of the Tafelmusik season, A Bach Tapestry will include both choral and instrumental works of J.S.Bach at Jeanne Lamon Hall on February 9-12, and George Weston Recital Hall on February 14.