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Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; Photo credit: Sian Richards

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; Photo credit: Sian Richards

Does it get any better than last night’s musical experience? My first thought is I'm not sure that it can. From the start of the evening, a musical suite for the supper of the King of France, to the culmination, Bach's resounding second Brandenburg Concerto, the instrumentalists of Tafelmusik played expertly, with precision, sensitivity, nuance, and grace, and, just as importantly, they performed as a very well co-ordinated ensemble, perfectly together in time and tuning.

The first congratulations belong to director Elisa Citterio, for her leadership in programming and direction of the players, and also for her own exquisite playing. I echo the compliment paid by Susan Burney more than two centuries ago; the closer one sits to this talented, accomplished, assiduous violinist, the better the music sounds.

I was fortunate in my vantage point last night and I could see that the tourte on her bow is broader than that of the other violinists. I could not be sure, but she seems to exert pressure on the bow hairs, as a bass or viola da gamba player would, to control the sound precisely. In her directing and playing the rhythm and tempo are so well undertaken that is difficult to keep one's feet still.

In fact, the string players do not. Citterio’s animation of the rhythm is infectious, and seems to captivate them, so that the entire orchestra plays as one. Even the notes inégales, the unequal rhythmic values, were executed precisely together. The orchestra performed exactly in the idiom of the music. 

Blackadder's tone was sweet and clear throughout the range of the instrument, into the stratosphere. The ease and grace with which he played at all dynamics were a delight to the ear.

After intermission a Christmas Symphony by Corrette was featured. Its sections had extra musical titles, not really program music, but musical allegory, like the Biblical Sonatas of Kuhnau.

Finally came the piece we had all been waiting for, Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto for trumpet, oboe, recorder, and violin, not just a mixed consort, but one that includes an outdoor instrument (trumpet) with indoor instruments, such as the recorder. Here the virtuosity of the musicians was on display; Blackadder played in different ranges, lip trills gracing his music. Oboist John Abberger was impressive in his control and ornamentation. Violinist Julia Wedman and recorder player Alison Melville were impressive soloists, and Blackadder thrilled the audience on the trumpet, eventually playing the third movement of the concerto again as a true encore. But the star of the evening was the ensemble itself. Every player was caught up in the joy and excitement of the event.

My friend and I had just heard the Tafelmusik players in the Chicago debut of Opera Atelier. He asked “Can it get better than this?” I don’t know, but we have had an excellent season to date and there is much more to look forward to.

This program entitled Sound the Trumpet! will once again be presented at 8pm on November 23rd and November 24th 2018 and at 3:30pm on November 25th 2018  in Trinity St.Paul's Centre.

​​Review by Paul Merkley FRSC
Toronto ON November 23rd 2018

Tafelmusik and David Blackadder serve up a banquet

David Blackadder; Photo credit: Boyd Gilmour

The continuo was, appropriately, an active, sparkling participant in the musical conversation. Mention must be made of the performances of Charlotte Nediger (harpsichord) and Keiran Campbell (cello).

Did I mention the tuning? It was meticulous, repeatedly checked and adjusted, section by section and string by string. The precise result made a feast for the ears.

Violists Brandon Chui and Patrick Jordan were the soloists for Telemann's Concerto in G major. The imitative and parallel section s were performed accurately and to good effect.

The first half closed with Fasch's Concerto for Trumpet in G major. Renowned soloist David Blackadder was nothing short of prodigious on his valveless baroque instrument.