W
e don’t often connect the city of Venice with world domination, given that today it’s associated in the popular imagination with being a well-known (and increasingly soggy) tourist destination and not much else. Journeying back in time through its music, we learn that Venice the political entity was one of the major players in Europe for nearly 700 years, from the early Middle Ages to the 18th century. The Most Serene Republic of Venice comprised not only the city itself, but the rest of Northeastern Italy, the islands of Crete and Cyprus, ports north of Athens and an archipelago of various Greek islands as well as ports in Albania and Croatia. Just as Rome was an empire based on one city, so too was Venice – but the latter remained  the envy of the other European powers long after the Romans had quit. Venice came to be one of the richest cities in the world over time, the envy of The Ottomans and the Papal States. For a power no one bothered to teach us about in school, the Venetians didn’t do too badly at the game of empire.

The rich history of the Venetians, fuelled as it was by a voracious appetite for wealth and power, was, unsurprisingly, also something of a golden age for culture, and Venice’s rulers and patricians funded a galaxy of talented musicians, composers, artists and architects throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Titian, Giovanni Canaletto, Francesco Guardi and the entire Bassano family remain influential artists from the period of Venice’s glory, artists who still hold significance in the art world today. Similarly, Venetian musicians were some of the greatest composers in Renaissance Europe: Diruta and Zarlino, Claudio Merulo, Cipriano de Rore, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, and the father of opera himself, Claudio Monteverdi are all Italian composers who spent most of their lives in the city of Venice.

For concert programmers, especially of early Baroque and vocal music, the city of Venice is a veritable gold mine gold mine, and the Cantemus Singers, a local choral group dedicated to Renaissance and Baroque music, have tapped this Venetian vein for their upcoming concert at the Church of the Holy Trinity on March 21 and 22, In a concert titled, appropriately enough, “The Glories of Venice” the 14-voice a cappella group will be delving into a fascinating chapter in the city’s musical history by performing selections from the madrigals and motets of Adrian Willaert, de Rore, the two Gabrielis and Monteverdi. They’ll also be featuring Giovanni Gabrieli’s glorious Easter motet for double choir Angelus Domini Descendit and Monteverdi’s remarkable Missa da cappella, a tour de force of sacred music writing from the early Baroque. They’ll be joined by new members Amy Dodington and Rachel Krehm as well as lutenist Ben Stein. As choir concerts go, this program seems remarkably focused in both its scope and style, so if you’re at all interested in Renaissance vocal music or Italian music, or just enjoy choral music in a lovely intimate venue, this is definitely the concert for you.

2006-Early_Music_1-Cantemus.jpgCapella Intima’s Dido: If you’re in the mood for a vocal concert that takes you further from Italy and closer to (say) England, Capella Intima has just the concert you’ve been looking for. They’re touring a version of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas based on its first ever public concert performance in 1780, almost a century after the work was first debuted at a girls’ school in 1688. Warming to the occasion, Intima has come up with “An Evening of Antient Music” – namely, what musicians and concertgoers of previous centuries, exhibiting both more than a little historical chauvinism and a fanaticism for new music, called a performance of any piece that was more than a half-century old. Capella Intima is touring their Dido around Southern Ontario, including performances in Hamilton and St. Catharines, and will be taking the show to Toronto for a special evening of music making. They will be joined by Sheila Dietrich, soprano; Jenny Enns Modolo, alto; Bud Roach, tenor; and David Roth, baritone, for the Purcell as well as some rounds, a few catches (like a round, but with dirtier lyrics), and airs. You can catch this at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, on March 6 at 7:30 pm.

Out of the Ordinary: If you’re a fan of English poetry as well as English song, check out the Musicians in Ordinary’s concert devoted to the poetry of John Donne. Donne’s intricate poems include some of the most sensual and the most spiritual in English literature. To assist in evoking the poet’s craft, the Musicians in Ordinary have invited Seth Lerer, a scholar of Renaissance literature from theUniversity of California at San Diego, to read some of his work as part of the concert.

2006-Early_Music-Lerer_and_Donne.jpgDonne’s contemporary, the Renaissance composer Thomas Campion, was also a Donne fan and expressed his appreciation by setting a few of Donne’s poems to music. Soprano Hallie Fishel will be singing these with some accompaniment from John Edwards on lute at Heliconian Hall on March 7 at 8pm. This concert will be a musical tribute to a seminal figure in English literature. But be prepared! While much of Donne’s writing is full of light and grace, his  Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy’s Day, which is on the program, is bleakness personified.

According to St. John: Tafelmusik is helping to escort us through Lent this month with an appropriately pious concert. Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion’s reputation as the composer’s magnum opus seems completely unshakeable save for his underappreciated Passion According to St. John, and it’s the latter that the orchestra will be bringing to Trinity-St Paul’s Centre on March 19 to 22. From the opening chorus, “Herr, unser Herrscher” to the closing chorale “Ach Herr, lass dein lieb Engelein,” the St. John Passion is some of the finest vocal music of the 18th century. Ivars Taurins will conduct the Tafelmusik orchestra and chorus; soloists Julia Doyle, Daniel Taylor, Charles Daniels and Peter Harvey will be on hand to deliver some spectacular arias. Whether or not you’ve ever heard a performance of the St. John Passion or any other of Bach’s vocal music, this concert is definitely a must-see.

Finally, the hardworking Musicians in Ordinary will be performing a second time this month – this time as part of their series as the ensemble-in-residence at St. Michael’s College. They will be playing St. Basil’s Church on March 16 at 7:30 pm, as part of a free tribute to that most famous of saints (and alleged inventor of whiskey) St. Patrick. The concert repertoire itself isn’t particularly Irish, but instead features some large-scale works by some 17th-century Italians: Monteverdi, Fontana, Marini and the like. With the Saint Michael’s Schola Cantorum choir joining the group along with harpsichordist Boris Medicky and violinists Christopher Verrette and Patricia Ahearn, this looks to be a concert well worth checking out – as well as being a chance to hear some of the top players in the city free of charge.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

A pattern I’m beginning to see in early music concerts in Toronto is something you might describe as musical tourism – rather than a mixed program or a concert built around a particular composer or work, groups experiment with a time and place in history and give the audience a soundtrack to that particular moment. I’m thinking specifically now of Toronto Consort’s “Paris Confidential,” which I saw late last year and quite enjoyed – it was a fascinating look at Renaissance Paris, complete with music from the City of Lights circa 1550. This month, I’d like to look at other Toronto groups who are both geeking out on history and putting together some fabulous concerts in the process.

2005_-_Beat_-_Early_-_The_Tallis_Choir.pngTake for example, Leopold: you have to have at least some background in history to have heard of Leopold I, a very unlikely figure, one might think, to inspire a concert program. Nevertheless, European civilization owes quite a bit to Leopold I of Austria, who ruled over the Holy Roman and Austro-Hungarian Empires for the latter half of the 17th century. Leopold came to power as the King of Bohemia in 1655, after Europe had already been wracked by decades of brutality in the Thirty Years War, which had been waged across the length and breadth of the European continent and had ended when Leopold was just a child. You might think, after three decades of constant warfare, as well as the attendant expense and famine, that a rookie 15-year-old king would welcome a break from fighting and usher in a new era of peace, but the kid wasn’t having any of it. The first thing he did was team up with Poland to wage war against the Swedes for five years. Leopold won that war, having in the meantime become king of Austria, Croatia, and Hungary, as well as Holy Roman Emperor of Germany. This bought Eastern Europe nearly two decades of peace – until Leopold went on to battle Louis XIV of France and the Ottoman Turks multiple times from the 1670s until his death in 1705. In so doing, he established himself as the major belligerent of one of the most violent centuries in human history.

Alongside waging constant warfare and his perceived obligation to defend Christendom from the Islamic hordes, the northern barbarians and France, Leopold was, surprisingly, a generous musical patron and composer himself. Many fine Baroque composers, including Antonio Bertali, H.I. Biber, J.J. Fux and Johann Schmelzer owe their careers to his patronage. This month, the Toronto Consort will pay tribute to this magnificent sponsor of European musical life. Lutenist and conductor Lucas Harris will join the ensemble for a program based on a manuscript of music from Leopold’s court in Vienna, including that composed for the emperor’s court and chapel. This all goes down at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre on February 6 and 7.

Guadalupe: Blood-soaked European battlefields are fairly common grist for history’s mill. But history can also be built on strange events in the most unlikely of places, as in our next concert, which was inspired by an apparition seen by a simple farmer in a tiny village in Mexico. When the Virgin Mary appeared to a farmer on a hill in Guadalupe (now incorporated as a suburb of Mexico City) and told him to build a church there, the Spanish authorities honoured the pious man’s request by building a monumental cathedral. Centuries later, it is surely an inspiring place. The cathedral at Guadalupe is now a number one tourist destination for Catholics worldwide and the Virgin of Guadalupe is a cultural and religious icon for Mexicans everywhere. The Tallis Choir is dedicating a program to the basilica at Guadalupe on February 28 at St. Patrick’s Church, featuring music from 17th-century Mexico and Spain. The Tallis Choir will be joined by Philip Fournier on organ and WholeNote columnist Ben Stein on lute in music by Tomas Luis de Victoria, Guerrero and Padilla. Since it’s a very rare chance to hear music from 17th-century Mexico, I highly recommend you take this opportunity to hear it.

2005_-_Beat_-_Early_-_Allison_Mackay.pngParis 1737: From the emperor’s palace in Vienna to the cathedral of Guadalupe, the next stop on the musical tour this month is Paris, which probably takes the prize for being the most clichéd tourist destination of all time. Still, when Georg Phillip Telemann took a trip there in 1737, he got a chance to perform with some of the greatest musicians of the day, including the French flutist Michel Blavet and the viola da gamba virtuoso Jean-Baptiste Forqueray. Telemann prepared for the occasion by writing a dozen quartets which the group (along with a lesser-known violinist and cellist) performed, and nearly 300 years later, the composer’s Paris Quartets are a classic of the early music chamber repertoire. This month, Scaramella will present a program devoted entirely to Telemann’s Paris Quartets at their usual haunt at the Victoria College Chapel on the U of T campus on March 7. Scaramella, or rather gambist Joëlle Morton, will be joined by American flutist Kim Pineda, as well as Toronto-based musicians Edwin Huizinga (on violin) and Sara-Anne Churchill (on harpsichord). While it may not have the variety of a mixed program, the Paris Quartets make for a great concert for anyone who appreciates late Baroque music. This concert will feature top-drawer music from a composer who in his day was considered by many to be better than Bach.

House of Dreams: Of course, if you’re into musical tourism, Tafelmusik has that beat covered with their concert and multimedia event “House of Dreams,”  the brainchild of Alison Mackay, who, not coincidentally, came up with “Paris Confidential,” mentioned above. Mackay’s presentation/concerts are a great way of giving people a chance to explore the cultural and social history of the music, and are as educational as they are entertaining for audiences (besides, it gives us something to look at during the concerts). For this project, Mackay mashed up the music of Handel, Marais, Bach, Sweelinck and Vivaldi with paintings from the same time and place as the composers. As if that weren’t enough, Mackay actually collaborated with the European museums in all these composers’ hometowns, so this concert, in addition to being a giant whistle-stop tour of London, Paris, Leipzig, Delft and Venice, will actually show you what it was once like to live in those cities. As a cultural experience and musical tour, it’s hard to beat. The extravaganza will take place February 11 to 15 at Trinity St-Paul’s Centre, before launching out on an Australian tour.  This program, which spans both the length of Europe and the Baroque era, is nothing if not ambitious, but don’t let that put you off. At least you won’t have to worry about jet lag.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Early 29In deference to holiday tradition, I’ll mention the Messiahs first: Tafelmusik’s sing-along Messiah will be at Massey Hall at 2pm on December 21 this year, while Aradia’s Dublin Messiah will happen on the December 20 at 7:30 at St. Anne’s Anglican Church. These are the only two Messiahs in Toronto I think you need to see. If a Messiah was all you were planning on catching over the holidays, please turn the page!

Right. Now if you’re serious about music, and you want to find some first-rate medieval, Renaissance, and baroque music this holiday season, or if you’re just looking for an antidote to every saccharine Christmas carol you’ve been subjected to in every shopping mall you’ve been to since the beginning of November, keep reading. You certainly might find something new in the Toronto Consort’s Christmas concert, “The Little Barley-Corne,” a program of Yuletide hits from Renaissance Europe. This program is based on the Consort’s fifth album of the same name, which although, or indeed perhaps because, it included very few tunes that were immediately recognizable as traditional Christmas carols, was a breakthrough hit for the Consort, and quickly established them as a Toronto-based early music group that deserved to be taken seriously. It will certainly be a special treat to revisit this seminal album again after 15 years. The Toronto Consort performs The Little Barley-Corne December 12 to 14 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

Caprice: Another early music group that deserves our attention is Montreal’s Ensemble Caprice, a recorder-based baroque ensemble that quickly gained recognition on the Montreal scene for their free, and at times bizarre, interpretations of Telemann and Vivaldi. This group can typically be trusted to blow the roof off the concert hall. Caprice will be coming to Ontario to present their Christmas program “Baroque Christmas Around the World,” which features Arcangelo Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, some 17th-century South American songs, traditional carols and music by J. S. Bach and Handel. It also has the potential to be more subdued than a typical Caprice concert – a roof-raising Christmas concert being somewhat blasphemous in the eyes of the concertgoing public – but I can guarantee the group will perform with panache. This all takes place at the Port Hope United Church in Port Hope December 12 at 7:30pm and in Barrie December 14 at Grace United Church on December 14 at 2:30pm.

Poculi Ludique: If you’re looking for something completely out there as an alternative to Christmas carols and the Messiah, or if you’re just something of a medievalist, consider checking out this group of medieval-revival performers and musicians: the Poculi Ludique Societas (or the “Cup and Game Society”). This group will be performing selections from the York Mystery Plays on December 13 at 7:30pm at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church. The York Mystery plays were a series of performances based on bible stories ranging from the Genesis creation to the Passion of Jesus that were performed in the city of York around the 14th century; some were centred around the biblical story of Christmas. Each guild in town was responsible for a specific performance (based around a Christian divine miracle or mystery, hence the name). The mystery plays seem like a particularly insightful view into what life was like in the Middle Ages, given that the typical medieval European was a devout Christian and a member of a guild of some kind, but couldn’t read the bible (or even his own name) and depended on dramatizations like the York Mystery Plays to understand what he was supposed to be believing. In any case, the Poculi Ludique Societas are all medieval scholars from the University of Toronto and can probably explain all of this much better than I can. Plus, the music is under the supervision of Larry Beckwith of Toronto Masque Theatre, so the musical part of the production is in capable hands. As an unusual form of entertainment that nevertheless captures the original meaning of Christmas, this may be exactly what the Christmas season needs.

Tafel’s Quest: But if you’re looking for good live music, there’s no need to limit yourself to holiday-themed entertainment in the coming weeks. For example, Tafelmusik’s musical quest for a new artistic director, featuring the most outstanding violinists they can find, continues in the beginning of December. Amandine Beyer, a virtuoso violinist from France, will lead the ensemble in an all-French program at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on December 4 to 7. It looks to be a killer program of French composers, including Rameau, Corrette, Campra and Rebel. Beyer herself will attempt to wow the crowd with a Leclair concerto, and we’ll see once and for all if the orchestra can put on a sublime performance of French baroque repertoire. It’s all very exciting, as you can probably guess.

Scaramella: Another Toronto group that’s keeping busy over the holiday season is Scaramella, led by Joëlle Morton. They’ll be playing a concert devoted to the English composer William Lawes on December 6 at Victoria College Chapel at 8pm. As a gamba-based ensemble, doing a concert devoted to Lawes just makes sense – he was great composer of music for everything viol, from duets to consorts of four, five and six gambas. As a figure from music history, he’s even more compelling, living as he did during the period of the English Renaissance and taking the laws of composition (sorry, couldn’t resist) to strange and unusual places. His music is both engaging and intelligent, but his approach to tonality is at times either extremely liberal or extremely strange. If you don’t manage to catch their Lawes concert, Scaramella is also doing a program of 17th-century German composers in Victoria College Chapel on January 31 at 8pm. This time the group will be joined by countertenor Daniel Cabena – this concert could be worth a look as well.

Out of the ordinary: If you’re looking for something to do over New Year’s Day, you might want to drop by Heliconian Hall at 2:30, where the Musicians in Ordinary will be playing their annual New Year’s Day concert. They’ll be joined by Christopher Verrette and Patricia Ahern of Tafelmusik as well as Boris Medicky on harpsichord for a mixed program including Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Corelli. The Musicians have put together a solid lineup of players to play some decent repertoire for this concert.

Finally, there are a couple of other concerts worth mentioning as we get into the coldest days of winter: Toronto Masque Theatre will be performing Handel’s Acis and Galatea at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse on January 15, 16 and 17 at 8pm. And a group of six young Toronto-based violinists are taking an encyclopedic approach to concert programming and tackling all six of Bach’s unaccompanied solo violin partitas in one go. That concert will include Tafelmusik violinists Julia Wedman, Cristina Zacharias and Aisslinn Nosky, as well as Elyssa Lefurgey-Smith of Aradia. You can catch it all at Metropolitan United Church on January 9 at 7:30pm.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you’re looking for something to do on a weekend in November, you might be obliged to make a few tough decisions. As I write this, there are all of ten early music concerts going on in Toronto this month, no two even remotely similar to one another. It’s obviously a sign we live in a fun city with lots to do on any given weekend, but the possibility always exists that one can miss out on something fantastic, or at least something you won’t get a chance to hear ever again. I don’t have enough space to adequately discuss absolutely every early music concert going on this month (you’ll have to check the listings for that), but here are a few highlights and must-sees.

Solo harpsichord: It’s been a while since Toronto audiences have had a chance to hear a solo harpsichord concert, but audiences will get a chance to hear the instrument shine this month. Admittedly, Toronto hasn’t been graced with a superabundance of solo harpsichord concerts since Colin Tilney retired, but up-and-coming Toronto musician Philippe Fournier will entertain the public with a mixed program that will include François Couperin, J. S. Bach and John Bull. Fournier makes his home at Holy Family Church and plays with the Musicians in Ordinary from time to time. It will be well worth it to see what he’s been up to as a solo artist. Check out this concert November 8 at the Yoga Village at 8pm.

beat - early 1Schola, TEM: If you’re more in the mood for a choral concert, you might prefer hearing instead the Schola Cantorum and the Theatre of Early Music concerts the same weekend. They’re technically student concerts given by performers studying at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music’s fledgling early music program, but the program is directed by Daniel Taylor, who is probably the closest thing to a household name on the Canadian early music scene, and who brings in top-tier professional musicians for these concerts.

The Schola Cantorum will be singing some fairly standard renaissance fare (Palestrina, Tallis, Taverner) and it’s very likely that these will be fine concerts of serene sounds. Also, they’re at the beautiful Trinity College chapel on November 8 and 9 at 7:30pm. If you haven’t visited the Trinity College chapel yet, it’s one of the finest acoustic spaces in Toronto for choral music, so it would be worth it just to go and hear what a choral concert is supposed to sound like.

Paris in the Fall: If neither of these concerts are enticing enough to get you out of the house that weekend, keep in mind The Toronto Consort will be performing their own concert of renaissance music on November 7 and 8 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. The Consort is calling this one “Paris Confidential,” and it’s a social and musical exploration of the city of Paris in the 16th century, when the city was leaving behind its reputation as a muddy medieval military camp and quickly becoming a European cosmopolis. The great Alison MacKay, a gifted and insightful curator of musical and cultural history, is presenting a musical program of the city of Paris as seen through the eyes of one George Buchanan, a 16th-century scholar who left behind a legacy of rich descriptions of the city in which he lived. His letters, written to describe to his non-Parisian friends what life in the city was like, are the centrepiece of MacKay’s multimedia program, which includes anecdotes by other authors, contemporary paintings, drawings, maps and illuminations. Oh right, and there’s music, too. The Toronto Consort will be playing a program of renaissance French music, a rarity in this city. The composers on the program are hardly obscure, though, and include Clement Jannequin, Claude LeJeune, Claude de Sermisy and Jehan Chardavoine.

Honestly, if there’s one early music concert you have to see this month, this is probably it. Alison MacKay has developed a reputation for putting together thoughtful, engaging, and informative concerts for Tafelmusik and the Consort. If you’re familiar with renaissance music and names like Palestrina, Josquin, and Byrd already mean something to you, this concert will give you a bigger picture of what renaissance music is all about. Sixteenth-century French music is still composed in the same style as Palestrina and the like, but French composers of the period took the same rules of composition in some very creative directions. If renaissance music isn’t your thing, Paris Confidential will still be worth going to out of sheer curiosity – the concert promises to be an interesting in-depth look at what it was like to live in a major city and cultural hub of activity in the 16th century. Think of it as tourism for time travellers.

(Personal) Rezonance: For a fun instrumental concert later in the month, you might want to check out a chamber concert being given by my own group, Rezonance, a chamber ensemble whose core members include myself on harpsichord and violinist Rezan Onen-Lapointe. We’ll be joined this month by the fabulous Montreal-based flute player Joanna Marsden for a concert of 18th-century Italian and German music on November 30 at Artscape Youngplace at 3pm. Telemann, Handel and Vivaldi are on the bill, but we’ll also feature some lesser-known Italians like Benedetto Marcello and Evaristo Dall’Abaco. Artscape Youngplace is an intimate and acoustically flawless performance space, and for a small-scale chamber concert, I know for a fact Rezonance is hard to beat for sheer flamboyance (meaning everyone in the group really, really likes to show off).

Harpsichord-Beside-the Grange: I confess that I don’t know that much about Spanish baroque music; the only two 18th-century Spanish composers I can name off the top of my head are Domenico Scarlatti and Fernando Sor. Fortunately, Spanish harpsichordist Luisa Morales can dispel my ignorance, and will do so mid-month in a program co-presented by Baroque Music Beside the Grange devoted to Spanish baroque composers on November 15 at 8pm. This is an even smaller-scale concert than Rezonance’s, consisting of just Morales, flutist Alison Melville and dancer Cristobal Salvador. It promises to be an entertaining introduction to Spanish music and culture and will include the aforementioned Scarlatti and Sor as well as Juan Ledesma, Rodriguez de Ledesma and Blas de Laserna.

beat - early 2Beznosiuk: And finally, the Toronto group that can’t avoid being mentioned in any given month is of course Tafelmusik, performing November 19 to 23 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tafel will be presenting a program mainly devoted to music of the English Baroque – namely Purcell, Locke and Handel. It’s familiar ground for the band and it’s safe to say they will do a good job of it, but the real draw for this show is guest violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk. Beznosiuk is a veteran violin soloist and a bit of a whiz at English music – you can find his Naxos recording of the complete Avison violin concertos on YouTube – and it’s always a treat when a great international soloist comes to town to thrill us. Plus, it will be interesting to hear what Tafelmusik sounds like under his direction as this year of “find the leader” continues. Well worth checking out.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Does anyone still remember when Italian music meant either Verdi opera or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? It turns out Italians have been making music for quite a few years before Vivaldi (and after Verdi), and much of it is still well worth listening to three or four centuries later. It’s not often that we get to hear much Italian art music in concert, but in a rare coincidence, Torontonians have the unique opportunity to take in the complete history of music of the Italian baroque this month, as artists based in the GTA will be playing the complete span of Italian music in the 17th and 18th centuries from Monteverdi all the way to Vivaldi.

Monti at Tafelmusik: Who better to play Italian music than actual Italians? Tafelmusik will do just that, devoting an entire concert to Italian music of the 18th century while being led by the Italian violinist Davide Monti. Two concertos of Antonio Vivaldi headline a program that includes many of Vivaldi’s lesser-known contemporaries such as Benedetto Marcello, Tomaso Albinoni, Baldassare Galuppi and Evaristo Felice  Dall’Abaco. Albinoni is occasionally played today, while Marcello has been revived by early-music specialists as well as having been admired in his own time by J.S. Bach. You may well enjoy these other, capable lesser-knowns who lived in Vivaldi’s shadow, but at the very least you’ll come away with a new appreciation for what a great composer Vivaldi was. Catch this concert October 9 to 12 at Jeanne Lamon Hall in Trinity St-Paul’s Centre and on October 14 at George Weston Recital Hall. (Oh, and it’s very likely that Monti is a contender for the position of artistic director of Tafelmusik, so I’m willing to bet he’ll try to burn the house down at every performance. Just thought you should know.)

Roach takes on Sances: Later this month, Bud Roach, himself a great lover of Italian music of the 17th century, will be presenting the music of Giovanni Felice Sances, an Italian tenor and composer from the generation after Monteverdi. Sances was well known in his own time as a composer of opera in Venice; later he moved to Vienna and eventually became Kapellmeister under Ferdinand III. Unfortunately for Sances’ legacy, his operas were all lost, so we have no chance of performing any of his larger-scale works. Roach will perform a selection of Sances’ surviving material, a collection of solo songs and duets, on Saturday, October 18 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Hamilton. He’ll also accompany himself on guitar and sing along with baritone David Roth in several duet performances. The pair will also bring out some other hidden gems from the Italian 17th century, including songs by Alessandro Grandi and Carlo Milanuzzi. This should be a fantastic concert for anyone who enjoys renaissance music or Monteverdi. If you can’t make it, keep in mind Roach’s Sances CD will be released later in the month. There’s also a Toronto concert in the works, but no word yet on when that’s going to happen.

Alcina at Atelier: If an extravagant Italian opera is more your style, then you’ll be pleased to make it out to Opera Atelier’s debut performance of Handel’s Alcina, later this month at the Elgin Theatre October 23 to November 1. Handel was already a mature composer when he penned Alcina in 1735 for his inaugural year at the Covent Garden Theatre in London, but sadly, it wasn’t particularly successful, and has only recently been revived by the early music movement. Whatever 18th-century Londoners may have thought of  Alcina, it’s still perfectly fine by the standards of opera seria (i.e. the arias are all catchy). The music is great, and it’s hard to go wrong with Handel when Tafelmusik is your pit orchestra. Of course the plot is ludicrous. But as long as you don’t bother paying attention to the storyline of what’s actually happening on stage, Alcina done by Opera Atelier will be the perfect night at the opera.

Monteverdi in Ordinary? You can’t think of Italian opera without thinking of Monteverdi, of course. Arguably the greatest composer of the 17th century, Monteverdi’s operas are smash hits even to this day. Besides his dramatic works, his spectacular Vespro della Beata Virgine, written for orchestra and choir, is undoubtedly a masterpiece, and his madrigals are incredibly innovative, intelligent compositions that are widely performed and enjoyed. This month, the Musicians in Ordinary present still another facet of Monteverdi’s diverse body of work – namely his sacred chamber music written for the archbishops and cardinals of Venice. Monteverdi was kept busy writing music for three concerts a week, so the Musicians in Ordinary had a vast body of work from which to choose their program. The MIO will be joined once again by Chris Verrette on violin for the Master’s Selva Morale e Spirituale, motets by Monteverdi’s assistant Grandi, and some canzonas and sonatas for strings by Biagio Marini. This concert promises to be an in-depth look at sacred music by Monteverdi and his circle in Venice in the early 17th century. Catch it at Father Madden Auditorium in Carr Hall at St. Michael’s College on October 24.

BBB-Early1Mallon’s Rameau: Of course, not all concerts this month will be dedicated to Italian music. Inveterate nonconformist Kevin Mallon will be dedicating a concert to Jean-Philippe Rameau along with his band Aradia, and given that the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death just passed last month, one hopes for more concerts by Toronto musicians in honour of the great French harpsichordist, opera composer and father of modern music theory coming up this year. For this performance, Aradia will feature two of Rameau’s wonderful Pièces de clavecin en concert, lovingly arranged for string ensemble, and the young Canadian soprano Hélène Brunet will also sing two of the composer’s best-known cantatas, Orphée and Le Berger Fidèle, with the band. Two compositions by Rameau’s contemporary Jean-Marie Leclair, Overture Op.13 No.3 and the Deuxième Recréation de Musique, will round out the concert. All of this takes place at the Music Gallery on October 26. Definitely a must-see if you enjoy French music.

Cardinal Consort: If you’re at all interested in English music or viol consort, consider checking out the Cardinal Consort of Viols. Their next concert will feature consort music from the English renaissance, including music by Byrd, Gibbons, Holborne and Tomkins. The Conrad Grebel Chamber Choir will join the Consort for some choral works, and you can catch them at the Church of the Redeemer on October 5 or at Conrad Grebel University Chapel in Waterloo on October 1.

BBB-Early2I Furiosi: Finally, the always-entertaining I Furiosi ensemble will be performing at the Calvin Presbyterian Church on October 24 in a mixed program of music on the theme of work, including compositions by J.S. Bach and Christophe Graupner. I Furiosi has a devoted following, and you can count on them putting on a virtuosic, fun show with a few pop tunes thrown in.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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