1904 early musicI swear i’m not a Grinch. Really. Although I find getting ready for Christmas to be the most stressful experience of the year, I do my best to get into the Christmas spirit and enjoy the holidays. I buy presents for family and friends. I help stuff and baste the turkey. I dutifully go to church every Christmas Day even though I’d probably rather stay home and open presents. I buy egg nog at the grocery store, even though I have no idea what it is. I even have the sweater, five sizes too big, that my grandmother knit me for Christmas in 1995, and I will happily wear it again this Christmas, even though it hangs down well below my knees.

I am prepared to make sacrifices in the spirit of the holidays. This does not, however, extend far enough to make me feel inclined to go see the Messiah again. No Nutcracker either. I think I sat through enough amateur productions of the Nutcracker to sing the whole score from memory, and I could probably do the same for the better part of the Messiah as well. I don’t mean to detract from those who enjoy these holiday traditions, but I find surviving the holidays stressful enough without an incurable case of earworm accompanying me everywhere I go, thank you very much.

However, if you are so inclined to take in a Messiah this holiday season, you can do no better than Tafelmusik’s “Sing-Along Messiah” December 22 at 2pm in Massey Hall. Tafelmusik has been doing this for 25 years. They know what they’re doing. Ivars Taurins will dress up as Handel. It will be fun. Bring your own score. Or, if you’d rather let someone else do the singing, catch their other performances and hear soloists Emma Kirkby, Laura Pudwell, Colin Balzer, and Tyler Duncan sing it for you in Koerner Hall December 18 to 21. If you prefer a more authentic version, you can also head down to the Glenn Gould Studio at 8pm on December 21 to check out the Aradia Ensemble’s Dublin Messiah, based on Handel’s original version composed for (ahem) Easter in 1742. Both of these productions are very good. I highly recommend them, although I won’t be there.

Delayed onset: Alternately, if you are trying to delay the onset of Christmas for as long as possible, you might want to check out a couple of concerts in December that are in no way Christmas-themed. The Rezonance Baroque Ensemble will be presenting chamber works by Telemann and Erlebach as well as solo works by J.S. Bach in an afternoon concert at the Tranzac on December 8 at 3pm. If you’re the sort of person who is more inclined to look for a pub on a Sunday afternoon than a concert hall, you’ll find the cozy and welcoming atmosphere of the Tranzac very appealing. (Also in the interest of full disclosure I will mention that I will be playing harpsichord in this concert. Please do not heckle unless I’ve given you a bad review recently.) The La Mode Quartet will also be giving a concert worth investigating that weekend on December 6 in Bloor Street United Church at 8pm with chamber works by Rameau and Guillemain as well as one of the Telemann Paris Quartets, which are some of the most beautiful (and difficult) chamber works of the 18th century. And anyone observing Advent and wanting to take in a concert might want to check out the Musicians in Ordinary’s concert for the Advent season, featuring Magnificats by Vivaldi and Telemann at St. Basil’s Church December 3 at 7:30.

Involuntary vac: If you feel like seeing a concert in the New Year, be warned — January is an extended (and largely involuntary) vacation for baroque musicians on the Toronto scene. Thankfully, the Musicians in Ordinary have put together a program for New Year’s Day that will round out the holidays quite enjoyably. This concert features the French Baroque composer Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, a child prodigy and well-known composer of cantatas and solo instrumental works during her lifetime, and the Musicians in Ordinary will be performing her cantata Le Sommeil d’Ulisse (The Sleep of Ulysses). You can catch them at 2pm at Heliconian Hall.

Two Toronto-based baroque musicians who won’t be taking a vacation this winter are Daniel Taylor and Jeanne Lamon. Both Lamon and Taylor have teamed up to put together a performance of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, which ranks as Purcell’s best-known work, a 17th century English classic, and the only major English-language opera composed before 1900 that is still performed today. (There is perhaps one other — John Blow’s Venus and Adonis, which I’m still waiting to see performed in town.) Taylor and Lamon are directing the Schola Cantorum and the Theatre of Early Music for three performances of Dido and Aeneas at the Trinity College Chapel January 17 to 19. (If you miss this program, you can still catch another Theatre of Early Music concert a week later, as they will perform works by Gibbons, Purcell, Tallis and Handel in the same hall on January 26.

Late Jan: The concert season will pick up later in the month of January as the Musicians in Ordinary (who, I have to say, are really starting to emerge as the hardest-working musicians in Toronto in the next couple of months) have yet another performance, this time featuring violinist Chris Verrette playing five of the Biber Rosary Sonatas. Verrette, in between regular concerts with Tafelmusik, has been working his way through all 15 of these sacred instrumental works this season, and he plays them with remarkable sensitivity and grace. Definitely try to hear him if you can — this concert is at Madden Hall on January 24.

Finally, Tafelmusik returns with a program that features some exceptional chamber and orchestral music by J.S. Bach. “Intimately Bach will be a great chance to hear Bach’s Triple Concerto for flute, violin, and harpsichord BWV1044. It’s scored the same as the Brandenburg Concerto No.5 and is not as famous, but is easily as great a piece of music as the more famous Brandenburg. Soloist Grégoire Jeay will join Tafelmusik to play flute, and the orchestra will also play Bach’s Violin Concerto in G BWV1056 and his Trio Sonata in C BWV529. Tafelmusik will be back at Trinity-St Paul’s Centre for this concert January 29 to February 1 at 7 pm, with a matinee on February 2. 

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

When fans of early music walk into a concert in November, they may be impressed by the diversity of the repertoire and the performers. Concerts coming up this month feature both wide-ranging programs from under-appreciated composers and top-level performers who are just starting to emerge as soloists on the Toronto music scene.

early music - old made new 1Huizinga: One such relatively new face is Edwin Huizinga, a violinist originally from California who now calls Toronto home. Huizinga is already somewhat familiar to Toronto audiences, as he’s played as a section violinist in both Tafelmusik and Aradia, but having recently returned from a tour with his indie rock band The Wooden Sky, Huizinga is ready to come into his own as a soloist on the Toronto music scene. To accomplish this, Huizinga picked some of the hardest violin sonatas in the classical canon — having already performed the first three of Bach’s six sonatas for harpsichord and violin, he’s teaming up with harpsichordist Philip Fournier to complete the cycle by playing Bach’s B minor, A major, and E major Sonatas at the Oratory, Holy Family Church, November 8.

“I have a great love for the music of Bach,” Huizinga says when I ask him about his upcoming concert with Fournier. “As a musician, I can appreciate the well-crafted nature of his music on a purely intellectual level, but to also be the vehicle creating the notes — to be able to put a smile on someone’s face using just the music that Bach wrote — that’s amazing.” Bach composed these violin sonatas for a concert series at a local coffeehouse in Leipzig — the same place where his Coffee Cantata was performed. In a similar spirit of informality, Huizinga and Fournier are giving an additional performance at a café. The Common, located at College and Gladstone, will host the duo on November 4, and Huizinga hopes giving listeners a casual — and historically correct! — musical experience will attract new listeners to the music of Bach.

“I’ve been playing in a lot of classical revolution concerts [in bars and clubs] and I really believe it’s a great way of bringing the music to people other than regular concertgoers,” Huizinga says. “As an artist, I believe I have a responsibility to find new ways of sharing the art I’m passionate about.” While a café concert would certainly do that, the coffeehouse concert starts at 9pm, so perhaps you should consider having a beer instead of a coffee while you listen to them play. Bach would certainly have enjoyed either beverage.

early music - old made new 2Scaramella: Concertgoers looking to hear an interesting and varied repertoire steeped in a rich history should be sure to check out Scaramella’s concert on November 30 at the Victoria College Chapel. The program features composers based in England from the period of the English Civil War and Restoration, a dangerous time in English history when Catholics, Protestants, Republicans and Monarchists all fought for control of the country and supporting the wrong side at the wrong time could cost a man his head. Scaramella will play music by Henry Purcell and Matthew Locke as well as some by lesser-known musicians such as William Lawes, John Jenkins, Orlando Gibbons, Davis Mell and Simon Ives.

I caught up with Scaramella’s gambist Joëlle Morton and asked her what inspired her program. “The history of the times really had a huge influence on the music,” Morton explained. “Because there was no court for most of this period, the closest thing to court music was the private music people had in their homes. Composers who didn’t want to lose their jobs or their lives had to be very ambiguous about what religious denomination they belonged to.”

The result was a huge variety of secular chamber music for small ensembles that was performed in the homes of England’s wealthiest citizens. Perhaps because even a rich household couldn’t afford a full orchestra (or have enough space in the house for one) the instrumental combinations were incredibly diverse, and Scaramella has found a wide array of these unusual orchestrations for their concert. In addition to a duet for violin and viola da gamba plus continuo, the program features compositions for lyra viol, which has become a speciality of Morton’s in recent years. Lyra viol involves playing chords on the habitually melodic viola da gamba as well as retuning the instrument in one of over 40 different ways; this style of gamba playing will be represented by a fantasia by Jenkins for a lyra viol playing continuo and a piece for solo lyra viol by Ives. Combined with Purcell’s most famous sonata for strings (the “Golden”), a Locke suite and a virtuosic organ fantasia by Gibbons, chamber music lovers should get quite a kick out of this concert.

Daniels and LeBlanc: Music fans looking for a more conventional concert experience (or who just like their music sung rather than played) won’t want to miss Tafelmusik’s November concert series, titled “Purcell and Carissimi: Music from London and Rome, presented at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre from November 6 to 10. “Purcell and Carissimi” features tenor Charles Daniels and soprano Suzie LeBlanc, both of whom are world-renowned singers who have made a lasting impression on audiences across Canada. LeBlanc is probably best-known for her collaboration with countertenor Daniel Taylor and the Theatre of Early Music, and is herself the artistic director of her own opera company, Le Nouvel Opéra, based in Montreal. Englishman Daniels, best known for his interpretations of Bach, Purcell and Monteverdi, astonished audiences at the Montreal Baroque Festival in 2009 with his completion of Purcell’s ode Arise My Muse. Both Daniels and LeBlanc have sung with Tafelmusik before, most notably together in a performance of Purcell’s King Arthur during Tafelmusik’s 2009/10 season. Listening to them sing, it’s easy to tell why the orchestra wants them to keep coming back.

Others to watch: Some other early-music concerts to watch out for in November: the Community Baroque Orchestra of Toronto, performing Brandenburg Concerti 4 and 5, as well as a reconstructed “Brandenburg 9” (by the late musicologist and oboist Bruce Haynes) at the 519 Community Centre, November 9; the evening will feature violinists Valerie Gordon and Elyssa Lefurgy-Smith and harpsichordist Sarah-Anne Churchill. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards from Musicians in Ordinary will be playing an all-Dowland tribute concert for his 450th birthday at Heliconian Hall on November 16. Finally, lutenist and choir conductor Lucas Harris will present a mixed program for his master’s recital in choral conducting at the Church of the Redeemer, November 2 at 4:30. While the program will include choral works by Arvo Pärt, Clara Schumann, and Lili Boulanger, the concert will also feature Austrian sacred music from the 17th century with some help from the “Jeanne Lamon Baroque String Ensemble,” so this concert might be an opportunity to hear some Tafelmusik players free of charge 

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

early musicI should probably just come out and say, before I describe the concerts I’m looking forward to hearing this month, that I’m starting to have high hopes for the future of culture in Toronto; and the classical musicians I meet are giving me good reason to be an optimist. There are a few artists performing in Toronto this month who are giving this city a flavour that’s a little more cosmopolitan and a little less conventional. We’re now an important enough destination that at least a few lesser-known artists are performing in the city hoping to make it big-time, while the musicians that currently call Toronto home are continually coming up with new ideas that are every bit as innovative — if not more so — than concerts I’ve heard on the best European and American stages.

One artist that Toronto audiences will be happy to welcome back is Hank Knox, one of the leading lights of Montreal’s music scene and one of the founding members of Montreal’s Arion Baroque Orchestra. Knox has only occasionally performed in Toronto, in joint concerts with Arion and Tafelmusik. Never content to be heard behind the orchestra, Knox has struck out on a cross-Canada tour that includes dates in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Flin Flon, The Pas and Balmoral, Manitoba, as well as a stop in Toronto. The whole trip will amount to some 3,600 kilometres by car, which is impressive enough as a road trip without even factoring in the concerts after each drive. This sounds like a truly punishing concert schedule, as Knox is making the trip halfway across Canada alone.

Apparently he doesn’t mind. “It’s good, every so often, to blast your mind out of the usual rut it’s been in,” Knox answers when I ask him how he copes with the hours of driving. “I actually enjoy the solitude of long drives, and it’s very peaceful to just sit back and focus on the road for hours without any distractions.”

Knox will be at the Canadian Opera Company for a free noon-hour concert on October 3, and will be playing a mixed program for, as he puts it, “people who don’t know anything about the harpsichord,” which one can safely claim is well above 90 percent of the Canadian population. Knox’s program includes the trance-like The Bells by William Byrd, Frescobaldi’s gloriously perverse Fantasy on the Cuckoo, transcriptions of Handel arias from Rinaldo, La Poule by Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue. What makes this appealing to a curious-but-ignorant-of-harpsichords concert-goer who doesn’t know what to expect? “Let’s put it this way,” Knox says, “if you don’t like what you hear, wait five minutes and something completely different will come along for you to listen to.” Sounds like a concert with something for everyone, and maybe even a possible ride to Montreal in it for you if you offer to pay for gas.

One Toronto-based artist who’s ventured off the beaten path to pursue her musical passions is Katherine Hill, who moved to the Netherlands and eventually Sweden to study medieval music. Hill is mainly known as a singer and viola da gambist, and is the proud holder of a master’s degree in medieval studies from the University of Toronto. Together with Ben Grossman and Alison Melville, Hill is also a member of Ensemble Polaris, a group which specializes in the folk music of circumpolar countries —Arctic fusion they call it. Hill’s deep and abiding love for the traditional folk music of Sweden led her to spend a year studying Swedish folk music at the Eric Sahlström Institute in Tobo, Sweden, and she came back with a unique knowledge of a relic from the the medieval era — a keyed fiddle known as the nyckelharpa.

“The nyckelharpa was actually fairly common throughout Europe in the Middle Ages,” Hill says, “but it’s only been preserved in Sweden. It’s becoming more popular in Germany and France and there are makers producing instruments now, but because no instruments have survived from the 14th century and the instrument kept changing, there’s no real way to tell what the original instrument looked and sounded like.”

Hill will be playing the nyckelharpa together with the Toronto Consort in a program of music from Sweden from the 16th to the 19th centuries, but that doesn’t mean it will be all Swedish composers — 17th-century Sweden was still a very multicultural country. “There was a huge international influence in Sweden in the 16th and 17th centuries,” Hill explains. “The Swedish court heard and loved music from England, France, Italy and Poland, too, and wanted to import the best musicians from all over Europe.” So a cosmopolitan Swede could possibly have heard, besides music from his own country, the music of the English composer Tobias Hume (a soldier in the Swedish army), tunes from John Playford’s The Dancing Master (a hit in 17th-century Sweden), compositions by Heinrich Isaac, and traditional Lutheran chorales — and that’s exactly what the Toronto Consort will be playing at Trinity-St. Paul’s on October 18 and 19.

Incidentally, Hill will also be playing along in Toronto Masque Theatre’s production “Brief Lives: Songs and Stories of Old London,” based on the collected biographies by John Aubrey. Aubrey’s Brief Lives is a who’s who of famous Londoners from the 17th century, and includes William Shakespeare, Thomas Hobbes, John Dee, Ben Jonson and Sir Walter Raleigh as its subjects. Even more interesting than the history lesson is the gossip: Aubrey dished the kind of dirt on his subjects that would get a modern biographer sued for libel if he published that kind of information today. Toronto Masque Theatre’s production features William Webster of Soulpepper and includes ballads and popular music from Aubrey’s London of the 17th century. The show will be at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts from October 25 to 27.

If you’re looking for more conventional concert-going fare (or you’re just an opera fan or Italophile) be sure to welcome a group of young players who are making their Toronto debut for Mooredale Concerts on Sunday October 20. Il Giardino d’Amore will be performing a concert of Italian baroque music in Walter Hall at 3:15 pm. The founders, Polish violinist Stefan Plewniak and Italian harpsichordist Marco Vitale, met when they joined Le Concert des Nations, the orchestra led by gambist and early-music superstar Jordi Savall, and decided to form their own band — since only the best players in Europe get to play with Savall it’s a safe bet these are some top-notch players. Their concert features Italian cantatas sung by the Polish soprano Natalia Kawalek, and compositions by Scarlatti, Corelli, Locatelli, Geminiani and Vivaldi. Il Giardino d’Amore will also be performing an interactive concert aimed at children ages 6 to 15 at 1:15 at Walter Hall. It’s a pared-down version of the same concert meant to last only an hour; tickets for the early performance are only $13.

I’m glad to see that Toronto is becoming a destination for foreign artists like Il Giardino d’Amore, and I’m always grateful for a chance to hear something new from familiar artists on the Toronto music scene. Be sure to check The WholeNote blog to see what I have to say about the early music concerts I actually manage to get out to in the weeks ahead. 

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

The next time you’re at an orchestra concert, take a close look at the musicians sitting at the back. Notice the looks on their faces as they play. If you have to, squint hard. Hear the brass section at full volume during an orchestral tutti, or the lutenist strumming away? Good. They’re working hard, they’re happy (or at least feeling professionally fulfilled for these few moments), and they’ll be glad you noticed them. But pay even closer attention when they’re sitting through a tacet and looking out over the orchestra with a blank look on their faces. They have nothing to do but sit and observe their co-workers, and I’m willing to bet you they’ve had a few hours to sit back and do nothing when the orchestra was rehearsing this week. They might seem idle, but this particular form of enforced idleness has great rewards.

early musicWhile their colleagues on stage are working, the musicians at the back, from their vantage point, can observe their every move. They watch stand partners glare daggers at each other through page turns, they watch the conductor wince as the flutist mangles an exposed passage and they can see everyone roll their eyes in unison as the soprano brings the entire piece to a halt to flirt with the world-famous tenor who just flew in from Milan (these are all hypotheticals, but you get the point): the backbenchers, more so than the soloists or even the artistic director are the people who really know what’s going on in an orchestra, and if you treat them right, they’ll give you all the inside info on the group that you need. Plus they return your phone calls faster.

I decided to ask Toronto’s top continuo players what they know about their respective groups and find out what concerts I should make a point of seeing (or missing) in the upcoming concert season. One continuo player who is privy to all kinds of inside information is Alison Mackay. As a bass player for Tafelmusik, she knows this year is going to be a momentous one for Toronto’s biggest baroque band. “We’re really excited that we’re going to have a brand new concert hall,” Mackay says, referring to the major renovation to Trinity-St.Paul’s. “We used to have to build the stage for every concert series and take it apart for the church services ... The new concert stage is going to make a huge difference to Tafelmusik’s sound.”

Better acoustics for any orchestra is a marvellous change, but this year is also a seminal one for Tafelmusik for another reason. This is Jeanne Lamon’s final year with the orchestra and this season’s guest conductors could be considered as potential candidates to lead the group one day. Tafelmusik will also be celebrating Lamon’s legacy as artistic director and lead violinist with the orchestra and will be taking suggestions from the audience for pieces to play in a concert featuring Lamon in a series May 8to 14.

Despite a flurry of activity behind the scenes, Tafelmusik will also be putting on several ambitious and innovative concerts, including two which were designed by Mackay and are now an international success. The first, “The Four Seasons: A Cycle of the Sun,” is a re-envisioning of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which he composed in 1725, and includes music from around the world that would have been heard the same year, such as pipa music from China, a raga to celebrate the monsoon and interactive performances by Inuit throat singers. It also features a re-imagining of Vivaldi’s “Winter” by Oscar-winning Canadian composer Mychael Danna. (Mackay’s other program, “The Galileo Project,” will tour Japan and Korea, but Toronto audiences won’t hear that here this year.) Finally, Tafelmusik will release a DVD based on another concert of Mackay’s, “House of Dreams,” which features music and paintings from famous art patrons in Baroque Europe.

“Some of these paintings were part of private collections that were acquired by public galleries and haven’t been seen in their original locations for centuries,” Mackay explains. “We filmed performances in places like Handel’s house in London and the house of one of Bach’s close friends in Leipzig. The movie takes you all over Europe and gives you a sense of what it must have been like to experience that music back in the 18th century.” That movie will be commercially available in a few months, and Mackay hopes it will get a public premiere some time in November.

Another continuo insider I talked to was lutenist Lucas Harris. Besides providing a solid foundation to groups like Tafelmusik and the Toronto Consort, Harris makes up one-third of the Vesuvius Ensemble, a chamber group dedicated to Italian folk music. “We had a very successful concert program based on music from Naples, so we’re going to tour that to Port Hope, Cambridge and Ottawa,” Harris says. Toronto audiences will be able hear Vesuvius on November 2 when they open for Michael Occhipinti’s Sicilian Jazz Project at Koerner Hall. Harris will also have centre stage earlier that day when he conducts his final Masters recital in choral conducting at the Church of the Redeemer in a program that includes works by Arvo Pärt, Lili Boulanger and Clara Schumann. While the concert won’t be a straight early music performance, Harris will use the occasion to show off a repertoire he’s passionate about — the Austrian sacred music of the mid-17th century. “No one has really explored this repertoire before, and it’s really amazing music,” he says. “On the one hand, you have beautiful counterpoint descended from Schutz, and on the other, this incredible virtuosity from Italian music from that period.”

While choral and folk music fans will be keen to catch Harris’ shows, viol player Justin Haynes’ exploits will be of particular interest to lovers of chamber and orchestral music. Haynes’ main group, Elixir Baroque, is already slated to play as soloists with the Community Baroque Orchestra of Toronto (CBOT) November 9. “We get a really good sense of energy playing with CBOT,” Haynes says. “They’re amateur musicians with a deep love of baroque music. It’s great to feel that sense of passion ... sometimes professional musicians get a bit jaded.”

Besides his main gig with Elixir, which will take him to Oakville and Brampton this September, Haynes has plans for a concert that will feature some of Telemann’s Paris Quartets later this fall with Allison Melville and Kathleen Kajioka. Though perhaps under-appreciated, the quartets are exceptional chamber pieces and are a fitting example of Telemann’s musical rivalry with J. S. Bach.

And as if Haynes wasn’t busying himself enough, he also has plans to step out from behind the band and perform as a soloist with an all-Forqueray concert of his own in December. “I love French repertoire and Forqueray wrote amazing music for gamba. It’s a good chance to show off,” he says.

The end of August is still early in the classical concert season. For many of Toronto’s music groups, halls still need to be booked, guest performers flown in, concert dates confirmed. But the rank-and-file players one sees in Toronto are more than just orchestral employees; they’re increasingly turning out to be budding impresarios, conductors and soloists, sometimes even ending up exploring music that has nothing to do with what they’re playing that night. So the next time you find yourself at a concert, pay a bit more attention to the guys at the back. Next time you might find them running the show — or with a band of their own. Here’s to ambition. 

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music
teacher and a founding member of Rezonance.
He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

earlymusic la-nefRambling through three months of early music performances within the space of one column might seem a bit foolhardy but it can be done; here, with the help of a few judiciously chosen madrigals, is my run-down of concert activity for the coming summer months.

June, she’ll change her tune, in restless walks she’ll prowl the night. Well, not exactly renaissance lyrics — it’s Simon and Garfunkel — yet it does describe this month of transition, the last vestiges of the winter season giving way to festivals that herald the arrival of summer.

We’ll start with a lovely ending to the TEMC’s Musically Speaking series, which has been going on monthly at Toronto’s St. David’s Church since January. What better way to draw to a close than with a program of viol music? “The English Viol” features works by Locke, Purcell and others and is performed by the Cardinal Consort of Viols on June 16.

earlymusic tafelmusik-choir-members bysianrichardsNo sooner have they wrapped up their busy regular season than Tafelmusik bursts vigorously upon the scene in June with their Baroque Summer Institute, an advanced training program in baroque performance which draws musicians from around the world. Four public concerts are offshoots of this program: June 4, “Delightfully Baroque” features music by Handel, Vivaldi, Blow and others performed by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir; June 9, “Musical Interlude” is a casual concert of chamber music by Castello, Merula, Bononcini and others played by members of the faculty; June 13, “The TBSI Orchestras and Choirs” presents music by Purcell, Fasch, Vivaldi and others; June 16, “The Grand Finale” is a baroque extravaganza involving participants and faculty, with music by Handel, Rameau, Charpentier and Mondonville.

And still in June, the Tafelmusik orchestra and chamber choir appear at the Luminato Festival, joining the Mark Morris Dance Group and vocal soloists for three performances, June 21, 22 and 23, of Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Choreographed by Mark Morris, this piece is widely considered one of the great dance works of the 20th century.

On June 22, a step back to the medieval: Vocem Resurgentis presents “Journey into the Medieval Convent: Music of Hildegard von Bingen and Las Huelgas Codex,” with sopranos Linda Falvy and Mary Enid Haynes and alto Catherine McCormack, performed at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

If you’re in Burlington on June 29, you can experience all six of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos performed in two concerts, by members of the Brott Music Festival’s National Academy Orchestra. And if you find yourself in Old Montreal from June 21 to 24, you have a wonderful opportunity to experience the spectacular Montreal Baroque Festival, this year titled “Nouveaux Mondes/New Worlds.” It features Motezuma, an opera by Vivaldi, and too many events both grand and intimate to list here (you can find it all at montrealbaroque.com). It also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Montreal Recorder Society, with workshops, masterclasses and concerts focused on the recorder.

Festivals are in my mistress’ face; and July in the Garden hath place. Okay, it’s a paraphrase (and no disrespect intended) of a madrigal by Morley, but it does point out that Toronto’s Music Garden concerts are in full swing in July and that summer festivals are abounding everywhere, with lots of early music to hear. Let me tell you about a few of these:

In Exeter, the Bach Music Festival of Canada takes place July 14 to 20. While it’s not all early music, there’s a concert of Bach’s great choruses with choir and orchestra (July 15), a performance by Cappella Intima titled “Celestial Sirens," featuring the revolutionary music of Benedictine nun Chiara Maria Cozzolani (July 16) and a full performance of Bach’s St. John Passion (July 20).

The Elora Festival, July 12 to August 4, presents two concerts completely devoted to Handel: July 14, Dixit Dominus and Laudate Pueri with the Elora Festival Singers and Chamber Players, Noel Edison, conductor, and on July 27, the chamber opera Acis and Galatea, with the Elora Festival Singers and the musicians of the Toronto Masque Theatre.

At Festival of the Sound, July 18 to August 11 in Parry Sound, some of the most beautiful spaces in the area (such as the Museum at Tower Hill and St. Andrew’s Church) open their doors to the audience for “Bach Around Town,” a series of performances featuring music of Bach and others, with performers such as violinist Moshe Hammer, the New Zealand String Quartet, harpist Erica Goodman and flutist Suzanne Shulman (July 24, 26 and 30).

Ottawa’s Music and Beyond festival, July 4 to 15, has an impressive lineup of music and performers. Among the events are a performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, an Albinoni oboe concerto and love duets by Handel, with soprano Karina Gauvin, countertenor Daniel Taylor, baroque violinist Adrian Butterfield and the Theatre of Early Music (July 6) and two performances of Bach’s “Coffee Cantata” featuring the Theatre of Early Music and soloists (July 7).

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Music Niagara festival, July 12 to August 11, offers a tasteful event for those who like to explore the wineries of the region. On July 20 the Toronto Consort will appear at the Trius Winery at Hillebrand, in a performance titled “Music & Wine.”

The Ottawa Chamberfest commands the city from July 25 to August 8, with irresistible concerts happening in many venues. Among them are three devoted to early music: July 28, Les Voix Baroques present “Beyond the Labyrinth: In Search of John Dowland” in honour of the composer’s 450thbirthday — an exploration of how Dowland’s songs may change when they are performed as lute songs, as part songs or in a grey zone between the two. Also July 28, “Dowland in Dublin” features tenor Michael Slattery and the early music ensemble La Nef, who focus on the lighter-hearted side of Dowland with new arrangements of some of his well-known airs. July 31, there’s a performance of Monteverdi’s iconic Vespers of 1610 with Les Voix Baroques and La Rose des Vents, directed by Alexander Weimann.

On Lamèque Island in northeastern New Brunswick, the three-day Lamèque International Baroque Music Festival takes place from July 25 to 27. There you can hear works for harpsichord, baroque flute and cello, instrumental and vocal music by Vivaldi, Handel, Corelli and Scarlatti, and choral music by Bach, Pachelbel and Leonarda.

early music pallade musicaMeanwhile at Toronto’s Music Garden, the Summer Music in the Garden series is in full swing. Approximately one hour in length, concerts take place in the outdoor amphitheatre and are a wonderful way to spend a Thursday evening or a late Sunday afternoon. Two in July feature baroque music: July 4, “Mediterranean Baroque” features music from baroque Italy, Spain and Turkey, played by baroque cellist Kate Haynes, baroque violinist Christopher Verrette and theorbist Matthew Wadsworth. July 18, Pallade Musica (Grand Prize winners of the 2012 Early Music American Baroque Performance Competition) presents “Terreno e vago,” an exploration of the emotional polarities found in music of the Italian Baroque.

In addition to all this, the following July events take place: July 19 in Waterloo, the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society presents Pallade Musica, fresh from their appearance in Toronto the previous day. July 20 at the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, harpsichordist Philip Fournier brings together accomplished singers and viola da gamba for “Méditations pour le Carême,” with music by Charpentier, Marais and Couperin.

Come away, come sweet love, golden August breaks. All the earth, all the air, of love and music speaks. O dear, another paraphrase — this time apologies to Dowland — but it does serve to note that if you want to go to early music concerts in August, you’ll probably have to “come away,” as all the concerts I know about at this point are in widespread locations: Parry Sound, Stratford, Toronto and Kingston.

There’s the continuation of the Bach Around Town series at Festival of the Sound, which this month finds soprano Leslie Fagan, trumpeter Guy Few and others performing Bach, Vivaldi and Handel at St. James Church on August 6, and violinist Julie Baumgartel and the Festival Baroque returning the series to the festival’s home base, the Stockey Centre, to perform an array of baroque composers on August 9.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra makes one more appearance, this time at Stratford Summer Music, with two all-Bach programs on August 17 and 18. In Toronto at Summer Music in the Garden, members of New York’s period instrument ensemble, Gretchen’s Muse, come to play two 18th-century string quartets, one by Haydn and one by Mozart, on August 22. And in Kingston, the St. George’s Cathedral Summer Concert series features the Kingston Viol Consort on August 29.

Oh it’s a long, long while from May to December, but the concerts grow fewer when you reach September ... (Will anyone argue that Frank Sinatra wasn’t a consummate madrigalist?) There’s one more at the Music Garden which shouldn’t be missed, though technically it falls outside the boundaries of this column: on September 12, the superb baroque cellist Kate Haynes returns to continue her six-year cycle of the Bach unaccompanied cello suites, with Suite No.3 in C Major. She’ll also premiere a new work by Christopher Hossfeld, inspired by the Bach.

And so good-bye to our summer tour of early music performances. Please consult The WholeNote’s website throughout the summer for updates and additional concerts as we hear about them. 

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote
in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba.
She can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

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