This weekend, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and its audiences embraced the arrival of its new Music Director, Elisa Citterio in four concerts at Koerner Hall. The long-awaited new leader has finally arrived. The Toronto music scene had been anticipating this moment for five years since Jeanne Lamon first announced her intention to retire. The search was exhaustive. During the intervening years, a long list of guests appeared with the orchestra, each auditioning for the role.
The concerts were designed to provide a backdrop of Baroque pomp, pageantry and virtuosity to welcome Citterio. From the opening fanfare in George Frideric Handel’s Concerto a due cori in F Major, HWV 333, the four horns and the stately music of the full orchestra that followed provided the pomp.
Citterio, leading the orchestra from her position as first violinist, performed major solo roles in a program of Baroque music from Italy, France and England. Her virtuosity was on full display, never more than in Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for violin in G Minor, Op. 8, No. 2, better known as Summer, from ‘The Four Seasons’. Here she performed the demanding work from memory.
Citterio’s solo work was breathtakingly stunning. Her poised and assured playing inspired confident performances throughout the orchestra. In Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in C Major, Op. 6, np. 10, she combined her impeccable playing with that of violinist Christina Zacharias, cellist Christina Mahler and the remainder of strings and harpsichord. Tempos were brisk in the dance movements. The lyrical Praeludium and Adagio drew me into the beauty of the harmony and spell-binding pianissimos of both soloists and the ripieno strings.
The orchestra was in great form for this concert. In addition to the sixteen core members, additional strings, winds and percussion expanded the numbers to thirty performers. Antiphonal effects, horn trills, imitative passages between oboes and strings in Jean Phillippe Rameau’s Suite from ‘Les Boréades’ all created joyous colours. The contrasts between movements, each with its own distinctive character, showcased the expressive range of the orchestra. Its final movement, a contredance, was taken at breath-taking speed and provided a taste of the fun that Citterio may have in store for audiences as she settles into her curating role.
Citterio projects musical confidence in all that she does without any extraneous gestures or distracting arrogance. She is a leader who is also a collaborative member of the orchestra. She stayed on stage between works to assist in the tuning of the temperamental gut strings as the orchestra changed personnel and adjusted positions on stage. For Citterio, it was all about making the finest music possible and less about the formal trappings of orchestral concerts.
While the full effect of the Citterio’s programming leadership may not be seen this year, the established successful calendar of activities will create a very full programming schedule. The fifty Toronto concerts will continue to be the core of the work. A new multi-media program from Alison Mackay, tours to Australia and Eastern Canada, international guest artists, choral-orchestral works, outreach programs, artist training, and collaboration with Opera Atelier will all be a part of the upcoming season. Each will have the musical touch of Elisa Citterio.
Tomorrow evening, Tuesday September 26th 2017 A Joyous Welcome will be repeated at the George Weston Recital Hall in North York. Elisa’s Italian Adventure is next on the Tafelmusik concert schedule from October 11th-15th at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity St. Paul’s Centre.
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON September 25 2017
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A Joyful Welcome…Tafelmusik’s weekend of concerts starts a new and exciting page in its history!
Tafelmusik's New Music Director Elisa Citterio
Photo Credit: Monica Cordiviola