Review by David Richards
Toronto ON October 13th 2018
Lutist Lucas Harris with members of Tafelmusik, Photo credit: Jeff Higgins
Elisa Citterio and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, photo credit: Jeff Higgins
Tafelmusik’s vitality fits with Vivaldi’s vivacious spirit!
Last night, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra continued its 40th anniversary season, presenting its second of six performances of a program they called, Vivaldi con Amore. A selection of seven of Antonio Vivaldi’s five hundred concertos and the Sinfonia from one of his fifty or so operas gave a thorough retrospective of his instrumental music. Vivaldi was indeed an eighteenth century ‘rock-star’ composer/violinist/opera-impresario. There were few empty seats in the Jeanne Lamon Hall in the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre for a concert that delivered unbridled joy, vivacity and ‘amore’.
Although Vivaldi was a contemporary of J.S. Bach, there is none of the harmonic or contrapuntal complexities of Bach’s music. Instead, Vivaldi’s music depends on the rhythmic energy found in dazzling scales and arpeggios, a driving pulse, playful imitation and soulful melodies in the slow movements. The music’s fast-slow-fast three-movement structure is a staple of Vivaldi. From the form, one always knows where the music is heading; it’s the process of getting there that holds the listener’s attention. Last night is was the amore in the playing of each member of the ensemble and especially in the playing of the soloists, all members of Tafelmusik, that made this concert special.
Music Director Elisa Citterio led an orchestra of just twelve strings complemented by two oboes, bassoon, lute/guitar and harpsichord in various combinations as the music required. Citterio performed as soloist in two violin concertos, Concerto for violin in C minor, RV 761 “Amato bene” and Concerto for violin in E Major, RV 534. Throughout the remainder of the program she lent her support to other members of the ensemble who in turn took on solo roles. Her splendid playing always delights. Yet it is in her invitational style of leadership that she brings the orchestra to perform with precision, joy and sparkling musicality.
Citterio’s solo playing left little doubt as to the reason that Vivaldi was such a sought-after violinist in his day. As Hannah French said in her pre-concert talk about Vivaldi’s life with the orphan girls of Ospedale della Pietà, audiences would come to his operas just to hear him perform on his violin during intermission.
The woodwinds rounded out the first half of the program. Bassoonist Dominic Teresi was as brilliant in Concerto for bassoon in D Minor, RV 481 as he was a few weeks ago performing a Mozart concerto with Tafelmusik. He is certainly a musical treasure. Oboists John Abberger and Marco Cera combined in Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 oboes in C Major, RV 534. Their fast-paced runs through the range of their instrument always a third apart was impressive to say the least. I always love the warm tones that the baroque woodwind instruments create. The volume of sound may not penetrate a large orchestra like modern instruments, but in a setting with a small ensemble of strings playing on gut strings, it is magical.
A highlight of the second half of the program was Vivaldi’s Concerto for lute in D Major, RV 93 performed lovingly by Lucas Harris. With an accompaniment of just two violins, violoncello, double bass and harpsichord, nothing was missed from his sensitive playing. Particularly effective was the second movement. The sweet love-song accompanied by whole notes in the violins and a minimal bass and continuo support was very touching.
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Bassoonist Dominic Teresi, oboists Marco Cera and John Abberger
and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Photo credit: Jeff Higgins
The program ended with two concertos that featured groups of soloists. Violinists Elisa Citterio, Cristina Zacharias, Patricia Ahern and Geneviève Gilardeau performed Concerto for 4 Violins in B-flat Major, RV 553. Their phrases were passed antiphonally in pairs or imitatively from one soloist to the next always with a balance of virtuosity and pleasing melody. The program ended with Abberger and Marco joining Citterio and Julia Wedman in a high-spirited Concerto for 2 oboes, and 2 violins in D Major, RV 564.
Citterio’s affinity for Vivaldi has become very clear in her short time with Tafelmusik. Last year, she performed each of the four concertos in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Later this winter, her first recording with Tafelmusik will be released. It will be a recording of music by Vivaldi of course.
I was lucky to be sitting next to Citterio’s husband and daughter who was born just before Citterio took over Tafelmusik. It was a treat to see this toddler, not yet two, watch the program attentively (most of the time), applaud enthusiastically and run up the aisle toward the stage at the end of the concert. There is no doubt where the amore came from in this concert.
Tafelmusik will repeat this program tonight, October 13 at 8pm and tomorrow, October 14 at 3:30pm at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. On Tuesday, October 16 at 8pm, it will be performed at the George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Be sure to catch the pre-concert chat by BBC broadcaster and musicologist Hannah French for insight into Vivaldi’s life at a Venetian orphanage for girls.