Here we are just past the top of the year, and it seems to this writer to be snowing composers — so many are represented in this month’s concerts. Some are not generally well known, so here’s a bit about five of them that I hope may whet your appetite to hear their music.

Pérotin: A man whose life is almost totally obscured by time, Pérotin is believed to have composed for the newly constructed Notre-Dame Cathedral in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. He must have been hugely affected by the spiritual power of this magnificent edifice, for he wrote monumental works in three- and four-part polyphony the likes of which had never been heard before. One of these, the complex and luminous Sederunt principes, is on Schola Magdalena’s upcoming program on February 8 at Toronto’s Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, along with music by Hildegard, plainchant, and newly-composed pieces. This six-voice women’s ensemble will also be performing at Waterloo’s NUMUS Concerts on February 7.

Cavalli: Think of a little boy with a good soprano voice, mentored by a Venetian nobleman who took him to Venice to sing in the cappella at St. Mark’s Basilica. His life was forever shaped by this early turn of events. He worked under the direction of the great Monteverdi, eventually became organist at St. Mark’s, composed sacred music and also branched out to write for the stage — 41 operas in all — becoming the most influential composer in the genre of opera in mid-17th century Venice. This was Francesco Cavalli, and his music is featured in two presentations this month: February 15 and 16, the Toronto Consort performs as an opera in concert The Loves of Apollo and Daphne; February 24, tenor Bud Roach and guests perform sacred motets by Cavalli and others as part of TEMC’s Musically Speaking series.

Taverner: Scaramella’s “Hartes Ease” (February 9) and Cantemus Singers’ “The Virgin Queen” (March 2 and 3) don’t appear at first glance to have much similarity, but they do have common elements. One of these is the 16th century composer John Taverner. Lincolnshire-born-and -buried, not much else is known about his life except that he held the position of organist and Master of the Choristers at Christ Church, Oxford; also he is alleged to have been an agent of Cromwell, assisting in Henry VIII’s suppression of the monasteries. But he is forever revered as the one who brought English choral polyphony of the period to its pinnacle. Viol players also regard him as rather notorious, for a particular sequence of notes on the words “In Nomine Domini” (excerpted from his mass Gloria Tibi Trinitas) that has forever installed itself in viol consort repertoire. You can hear one “In Nomine” by him in Scaramella’s showcasing of four antique English viols, which brings together four marvellous musicians to play them, in a diversity of music both early and modern. Taverner’s Sanctus and Benedictus from the Missa “Westron Wynde” is featured in the 16-voice Cantemus Singers’ performance, along with many madrigals and church motets.

earlymusic-feb2013Vincenzo Galilei was the father of the astronomer Galileo. In his own right he was an important musical figure of the late Renaissance, a lutenist, theorist and composer. He seems to have displayed an interesting mix of progressive thought and backward-looking sentiments: On the one hand, he made substantial discoveries in acoustics, reportedly involving his son in his experiments and encouraging him to approach scientific research in a practical as well as a theoretical way (who knows how the invention of the telescope would have played out without the counsel of Galileo the father?). On the other hand though, Vincenzo condemned modern music and championed the revival of the monodic (single melody) singing style of ancient Greece. He is one of several composers featured in the Musicians In Ordinary’s concert “You Who Hear In These Scattered Rhymes.” Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards perform baroque settings of great Italian renaissance poetry on March 2.

“The greatest composer you’ve never heard of” is the Windermere String Quartet’s description of Georges Onslow, whose string quintet they’ll be presenting. Onslow was a contemporary of Beethoven and Schubert, coming from an aristocratic British family but actually born in France. He “did not mean to become an artist, even less a composer” states a website devoted to him — but obviously he was meant to be one, writing operas, symphonies and much chamber music and becoming a highly regarded composer in his time. His music is extremely beautiful and full of inspiration but, alas, has virtually disappeared from modern view. On March 3 you can hear a lovely example of his work in the Windermere String Quartet’s “The Power of Five.” Played on period instruments, with guest violist Emily Eng, this is a concert of early 19th century viola quintets — a special, dark sound that only two violas can bring.


February 7 to 9: Feeling lately that you’d like to forsake the Canadian cold for a delightful evening in Paris? Well just around the corner, there’s a cabaret happening with the gaity and sophistication of Parisian life from medieval times right to the present day. Toronto Masque Theatre presents “Les Roses de la Vie: A Parisian Soirée,” with music by Marais, Couperin and more recent composers, also poetry, movement and film. Among the featured performers is acclaimed corporeal mime artist Giuseppe Condello.

February 9: The Academy Concert Seriespresents “Bach’s Blessings,” in the form of music for solo cello and solo harpsichord, a violin sonata, cantata arias and the complete Wedding Cantata. This concert features four artists well versed in the art of historically informed interpretations: soprano Nathalie Paulin, violinist Emily Eng, cellist Kerri McGonigle and harpsichordist Lysiane Boulva.

February 9, 12 and 16: The Velvet Curtain Ensemble with director Douglas Rice, orchestra and guest artists presents Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas. Among the stated values of this group is “to believe in our potential to shape the future of our diverse cultures and civilization by bringing strength and confidence to future generations who will endeavor to define humanity through the arts.”

February 10: In Kitchener, a celebration of food — for the ear and for the palate, as Nota Bene Baroque presents “If Music Be the Food of Love...” with food-related music by Schmelzer, Legrenzi, Bernier and others, and guest soprano Stephanie Kramer.

February 12: The Musicians In Ordinary are busy people — not only do they present their regular concert series at Heliconian Hall (March 2, mentioned above) but they are also ensemble-in-residence at U of T’s St. Michael’s College. In this capacity they present “Hail Bishop Valentine!” performing love songs from the time of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, to Frederick, Elector Palatine. Guest reader is David Klausner.

February 21 to 24: “Shrouded in mystery and speculation since Mozart’s death, the Requiem is a masterpiece for all time ...” begins Tafelmusik’s press release for their next concerts. Mozart’s Requiem features four wonderful soloists: soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Laura Pudwell, tenor Lawrence Wiliford and baritone Nathaniel Watson; the Tafelmusik Orchestra and Chamber Choir are directed by Ivars Taurins.

February 22: Sine Nomine Ensemble takes you to medieval Iberia, whose musical culture was greatly influenced by that of both North Africa and neighbouring Europe. In “Musica Yspanica: Spanish music of pilgrimage and praise” you’ll hear how some of these colourful influences manifested themselves, in songs of courtly love, cantigas in praise of Mary, sacred music from the royal nunnery at Las Huelgas and songs of popular devotion from Spanish pilgrimage centres.

March 3: “Out of the depths have I called unto you, O Lord” begins Psalm 130, a stunning poem of entreaty that has inspired composers through the ages. In “Kaffeemusik,” a concert which seeks to inform and enlighten as well as entertain, the Toronto Chamber Choir presents several settings of this text by composers including Schein, Sweelinck, Schütz and Bach.

Please consult The WholeNote’s daily listings for details of all these, and others not mentioned. 

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

We go to concerts to hear music, sometimes not aware of the interesting backgrounds of the artists there on stage, playing or singing their hearts out. In conjunction with two upcoming concerts, here are two performers with fascinating stories to tell.

earlymusic randall rosenfeldRandall Rosenfeld has been a mainstay of Sine Nomine Ensemble for Medieval Music since its founding in 1991. He’s often heard playing vielle, gittern, recorder and early flute in this group which performs vocal and instrumental music of Europe from around the tenth to the 15th centuries. But did you know that he’s received a major award from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for excellence in astronomical writing and has been honoured by having a minor planet named after him? It’s all in his work as national archivist of the RASC; he’s received high praise for creating a first-class archive that provides an insight on the development of Canadian astronomy in the last century. I asked him to talk about the co-existence of music and astronomy in his life; here, distilled, is a little of what he told me:

“My formal training wasn’t as a scientist, but rather as a medievalist. One can’t go very far in the exploration of the intellectual world of say, 1,200 or 600 years ago without encountering the very close connections between music and astronomy. They were sister mathematical disciplines through which an understanding of the world could be apprehended. Those connections could be found directly in music surviving from the 11th to the 15th centuries. There’s a surprising amount of medieval music with texts unmistakably using the technical vocabulary of astronomy, or describing types of celestial events. Very convenient for someone with an interest in the history of both music and astronomy.

“I can’t say that my work in the history of post-medieval astronomy influences what I do musically, or vice versa, with one notable exception. The problems associated with restaging historical observations and those involved with recreating past musical practices are in many respects quite similar — it is as difficult to fully recover or comprehend how an experiment may have been done in the past or how the results were perceived at the time as it is to recreate a past musical performance and hear it with the ears of the past (some aspects and perceptions will never be recoverable). Much can be learned by endeavouring to do both, and each may provide an illuminating analogue to the other.”

On December 21 at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church, Sine Nomine Ensemble performs “A Christmas Court Entertainment: The Romance of Erec and Enide,” one of the most popular Arthurian romances, with music by Machaut, Binchois, Dufay and other late medieval French composers. While the concert is not directly structured around an astrological theme, there’s astrological imagery: “Some of the repertoire mentions celestial objects and is concerned with aspects of the construction of the world, and touches on questions of time and eternity.”

Katherine Hill is well known as a soprano in the early music world, here and in Europe — no doubt you’ve heard her in ensembles such as the Toronto Consort, Sine Nomine and Scaramella. You may have seen her playing the medieval fiddle or the gamba too. But lately, another fascinating instrument has entered her life: The nyckelharpa is a bowed stringed instrument with keys that can be traced back to 14th-century northern Europe and is still widely used in Swedish traditional music. It got Hill’s attention when she heard it on recordings many years ago. She says: “The sound reminded me of my medieval fiddle, but I also loved the sound of the keys clicking away. And Swedish music, with its mix of major and minor modes, crazy rhythms and haunting songs also captivated me.”

Having the good fortune to borrow one for a summer and then to buy it, she seized opportunities to do summer courses in Sweden in nyckelharpa and Swedish music. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn! So last year I got a Canada Council grant to study technique, repertoire and Swedish traditional dance in Sweden for nine months, which was a very rich experience. Now that I’m home, I want to keep exploring the Swedish music side of things, but also the medieval fiddle side.”

There’s a good opportunity to hear her and this instrument, in the first concert of the Toronto Early Music Centre (TEMC) 2013 season. Hill says: “I will be playing nyckelharpa in this show. The general uniting element in the repertoire is the nyckelharpa, first as a medieval fiddle (pictured in Siena in 1408 in the chapel of the town hall). So we’ll be playing some music from that time and place. And second, the nyckelharpa as a Swedish traditional instrument; so there will be some Swedish songs and dance tunes. My partner will be Julia Seager-Scott, who will play a gothic harp for the medieval material and a folk (or a baroque) harp for the Swedish music. There’s a nice connection too, with the word harp also being in the name nyckelharpa (in Swedish ‘harpa’ can mean harp or fiddle).”

The performance takes place on Sunday afternoon, January 27 in TEMC’s intimate venue, St. David’s Anglican Church.

earlymusiccollegiumvocalegent credit michel garnierCollegium Vocale Gent/Schola Cantorum

We’re lucky that the RCM’s Performing Arts director, Mervon Mehta, is passionate about bringing internationally renowned artists to our parts of the world — for example, the wonderful ensemble Collegium Vocale Gent who appear in Koerner Hall on December 14 to perform four cantatas from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Specialists in historically authentic performances of vocal renaissance and baroque music, they’re led by the acclaimed conductor Philippe Herreweghe who founded this group in 1970. Their work has been described as “breathtaking,” “eloquent,” “unusually finely blended.”

A week earlier on December 7, the U of T’s newly formed early music vocal ensemble Schola Cantorum performs in the beautiful, acoustically rich and relatively intimate setting of Trinity College Chapel. Featured are Handel’s Coronation Anthems, the four joyful and celebratory pieces that he composed for the coronations of King George II and Queen Caroline. The concert is directed by countertenor Daniel Taylor, whose ensemble, the Theatre of Early Music, also participates in this performance.

A few others in brief

December 14 to 16: The Toronto Consort and guests, the Toronto Chamber Choir, present “Praetorius Mass for Christmas Morning.” This production recreates the music that might have been heard at a Lutheran mass on Christmas morning under Michael Praetorius and features the sounds of early brass, strings, lutes, keyboards and voices from their positions around the balconies at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

December 19: At Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields Church, the Elixir Ensemble — harpsichordist Sara-Anne Churchill, gambist Justin Haynes, violinists Elyssa Lefurgey-Smith and Valerie Gordon — performs music from the Baroque on historical instruments.

January 1 and 2: Don’t forget the Musicians In Ordinary’s annual New Year’s Day Baroque Concerts. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist/theorbist John Edwards are joined by violinists Christopher Verrette and Edwin Huizinga.

January 12: The Oratory, Holy Family Church presents “O Beata Infantia: Baroque Music for the Christ Child.” Organist Philip Fournier and a fine vocal and string ensemble perform works by Praetorius, Sweelinck, François and Louis Couperin, Perotin and Palestrina.

January 17 to 20, 22: Tafelmusik’s “Baroque London” explores the music of the King’s Theatre Haymarket under the guidance of retired oboist, Mr. Richard Neale. Music by Handel, Galliard, Sammartini, Bononcini and Pepusch illustrates the remembrances of this forgotten oboist, as imagined by actor R.H. Thomson.

January 31, February 1 to 3: Again the formidable Tafelmusik, whose show “Vivaldi, Handel & Sandrine Piau” features this French soprano in baroque arias, also orchestral suites and concertos. 

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

November is a month when many concert series have their season openers — a good chance for me to talk about some of my favourite groups.

Definitely in this category is Toronto Masque Theatre (TMT). This company is touched by magic — the magic of the masque, both ancient and contemporary, which they present in myriad entertaining productions that fuse different aspects of the performing arts; since 2003 they’ve staged close to 25 critically acclaimed multimedia productions ranging in repertoire from the late Renaissance to the modern day.

19-20earlymusicdali-rhino 1Their upcoming show, “Fairest Isle,” showcases the wealth and breadth of Purcell’s genius with pieces drawn from his semi-operas: The Fairy-Queen, Dido and Aeneas, King Arthur and The Indian Queen, along with music he composed for the Church and Court. TMT’s press release promises that it will be “an exhilarating combination of dance, theatre, orchestral music and song: a chance for audiences to glimpse the baroque splendour of the work Purcell created for London’s theatre of the time.”

Henry Purcell is obviously dear to the heart of TMT. In an ambitious five-year program, they’ve produced all of Purcell’s major theatre works, culminating in performances of, and a symposium on, King Arthur in 2009 to mark the 350th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Artistic director Larry Beckwith comments enthusiastically: “Purcell’s music is full of genius, craft, warmth and humour. He was so adept at supporting the meaning of the great — and sometimes not so great! — texts he worked with. The tunes are memorable and moving, the instrumental writing is first-rate, and the overall thrust of his work is lively and full of humanity.”

There’s a real treat in store if you go to see them! Performances are on November 16 and 17 at the Al Green Theatre. Pre-show chats featuring Beckwith and special guests take place 45 minutes before each show.

A look at the package in which Scaramella’s 2012-2013 season is wrapped will give you an idea of the artistry, ingenuity and care poured into each of their concerts. Go to the opening page of the brochure or the website, and you’re spun inside on the fronds of an exquisite spiral — actually a photograph of a staircase inside the lighthouse in Eckmuhl, Brittany (reminiscent of the scroll of a musical instrument, muses artistic director Joëlle Morton). Once landed, you’ll find your eye alighting on a set of particularly attractive images, each of which points in some way to the overall theme of this season: innovation and technology — a theme that takes on a variety of guises.

A photo of Salvador Dali engaged in serious discussion with a rhino gives some idea of what’s in store for their first concert. It’s all about animals and the ways that have been found to depict their sounds on musical instruments. As Morton says, “Our multi-talented musicians will be called upon to conjure cows, horses, ducks, frogs, geese, pigs, chickens, dogs, doves, frogs, bees, sheep, a stag, a snake, cicadas and cats.” They’ll do this in a multitude of pieces, from composers such as Biber, Bach, Handel and Copland to Elton John, George Harrison, Loudon Wainwright and traditional tunes. And who are these multi-talented performers? They include Elyssa Lefurgey-Smith (baroque violin), Katherine Hill (soprano), Joëlle Morton (violas da gamba), Sara-Anne Churchill (harpsichord) and Kirk Elliott (aptly dubbed “one-man-band”). “Lions and Tigers and Bears, O My!” takes place at Victoria College Chapel on December 1.

Two violinists in Toronto on the same weekend approach the performance of early music from different perspectives. November 7 to 11, one of the foremost international baroque violinists appears with Tafelmusik: Gottfried von der Goltz began his career as a “modern” player but decided to switch to the baroque style; in so doing, he found everything he needed to build an international career. Now violinist and director of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, he is Tafelmusik’s guest in “Mozart’s World,” as soloist in the Mozart Violin Concerto in A and as director in works by Haydn, Franz Beck and Josef Kraus.

19-20earlymusickoh 1Also on November 11, a violinist you may have heard last June in Toronto’s Luminato Festival performing the solo violin role of Einstein in Philip Glass’ opera Einstein on the Beach, appears in recital at RCM’s Mazzoleni Hall. Jennifer Koh is a consummate and very thoughtful artist who believes strongly that connections exist in all music from early to modern, since music reflects humanity’s common experiences in every society and every age. This conviction has led to the evolution of her project “Bach and Beyond” — a set of three recitals that seeks to reveal the connections in solo violin repertoire, from Bach’s six Sonatas and Partitas through to newly commissioned works. Her recital in Toronto is the second of these. She’ll perform two solo works by Bach, plus the Bartók Solo Sonata and a world premiere: Kline’s Partita for Solo Violin, written for her.


November 17 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society: Canadian pianist Shoshana Telner has enjoyed a flourishing career as soloist, chamber musician and teacher and currently teaches in the music faculty of McMaster University. In this concert she performs Bach’s Six Keyboard Partitas — music (described by one listener) that puts you “within that holy moment.”

November 17 and 18 (Toronto), November 24 (Hamilton): Capella Intima was founded in 2008 by the talented tenor and baroque guitarist, Bud Roach, expressly to present vocal chamber music of the 17th century. Roach has recently been immersed in research into the lost art of the self-accompanied singer, work that’s resulted in a beautiful recording of secular arias by Grandi. (Go to Capella Intima’s website to hear excerpts and find out more about the project.) Some of this music will be presented in the three upcoming performances: intimate arias by Grandi, Sances and Strossi, featuring soprano Emily Klassen and tenor Bud Roach, who also accompanies the songs on baroque guitar.

November 18: Organist Philip Fournier came to Toronto from the USA in 2007, bringing with him an impressive history of scholarship and experience in the fields of organ performance and choral directorship. He gives a recital, “Organ Music of the 17th Century,” on the magnificent three-manual mechanical action organ at The Oratory, Holy Family Church — music by Praetorius, Sweelinck, Scheidt, Frescobaldi, Byrd and Bach.

November 18: The Windermere String Quartet on period instruments continue their journey through the “Golden Age” of string quartets with a performance dedicated to youthful works. In “Young Blood” they play works by Mozart, Schubert and Arriaga — musical geniuses who, by the age of 19, had already displayed their mastery of the form. Lucky for us that they were so precocious because they had not much time to develop: they all died tragically young.

November 27 also at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society: Lovers of the viol should flock to this concert given by the internationally renowned bass viol duo Les Voix Humaines. Their concert titled “The Sun Queen” refers to King Louis XIV’s favourite instrument, the viola da gamba, and includes original compositions and arrangements of French chamber music of the 17th century. This is music which (in their words) “reflects the growing taste for private pleasures, making use of a language which is at once moving and discreet, evoking a world where freedom and intimacy go hand in hand.”

Choral concerts involving early music are well represented; here are a few of them: Cantemus Singers: “Make We Merry!” (November 17 and 18); Georgetown Bach Chorale: Handel’s Messiah (November 17 in Goderich, November 18 in Brampton, November 23 and 25 in Georgetown); Melos Choir and Chamber Orchestra: “Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II” with Handel’s Coronation Anthems (November 18 in Kingston); Larkin Singers: “Bach Motets” (November 24); Elmer Iseler Singers: Handel’s Messiah (November 30); Tafelmusik: “French Baroque Christmas” (December 5, 6, 7, 8, 9); U of T Schola Cantorum: Handel’s Coronation Anthems (December 7).

For details of all these and more, please see The WholeNote’s daily listings. 

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

October brings an interesting variety of early music activity: historical instruments performing a range of music from the middle ages to the classical period; philosophies expressed through music and historically interesting pairings of old and new; the celebration of a milestone anniversary and brand new initiatives in the field.

early music pages 30-31 toronto consor toption1The Toronto Consort celebrates its 40th anniversary this season — no mean accomplishment for an early music group that started relatively modestly. They’ve weathered many personnel changes in their long history, and therefore also shifts in their sound and to some extent their focus, according to performers and instruments available during any given period. Sadly also, they’ve seen the recent death of a well-loved co-founder, Garry Crighton. There are also elements of constancy, including the involvement since 1979 of the energetic David Fallis, artistic director since 1990, who has led them through projects such as providing authentic period music for the 10 part television series The Tudors. What better way to celebrate the success of 40 years than with a season opener showcasing masterpieces from the English Renaissance, including music the Consort recorded for that TV series, crowned with the magnificent 40-part motet Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis? To perform this work they will be joined by members of Toronto’s Tallis Choir. “The Tudors” is presented at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on October 19 and 20.

Voice and instruments: Just announced, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music is establishing an exciting new program in early music that comprises both voice and instrumental components under the direction of countertenor and early music specialist Daniel Taylor. The list of musicians involved as instructors is impressive and includes respected local early music specialists as well as distinguished guests such as soprano Emma Kirkby and violinist Adrian Butterfield. Musicians from Tafelmusik and the Theatre of Early Music (Taylor’s own early music choir and orchestra) will appear in concerts this year with the newly formed Schola Cantorum.

In Taylor’s own words:“My vision is one which brings faculty and students together. With the support and guidance of my gifted colleagues, we hope to bring what is sacred back into the process of exploring this magnificent yet neglected early repertoire. The U of T offers students an unparallelled opportunity in Canada to study with the most sought after artists in the field of early music. We offer an exceptional program which meets the needs of our exceptional students. Any misconceptions that the study of music written between 1000 and 1800 is limiting in any way will fall away.”

early music pages 30-31daniel taylor option 2One of the program’s first public performances is on October 18, when U of T presents “Songs of Love and War,” opera scenes from the Baroque, staged by Tim Albery and conducted by Kevin Mallon, in the Music Room at Hart House.

Some concerts open a window onto a world of ideas, or universal truths. “Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light” is one. Arising from a deep commitment to the precepts of this 12th century abbess, healer, writer and composer, it’s a one woman show created by the American mezzo Linn Maxwell, in which she becomes Hildegard, telling her story and expressing her philosophy of the world through actual songs and writings while providing her own accompaniment on the psaltery, organistrum (an early hurdy gurdy) and harp. This performance, taking place on October 23 and 24 at Regis College Chapel, is a co-production of TrypTych and Opera by Request.

Obviously a man of ideas who operated under an assumed name referring to musical pitches, Pierre Alamire was not only a merchant, a diplomat and a spy for the court of Henry VIII, but also one of the 16th century’s most skilled music copyists and illuminators. On October 28, the Toronto Chamber Choir will be projecting some of his beautifully illuminated copies as they perform music by contemporaries Josquin, Ockeghem, de la Rue and Willaert. “Mysterious Pierre A-la-mi-re”is an afternoon Kaffeemusik, one of those presentations given twice a year by the Choir and their music director, Mark Vuorinen, which seek to both entertain and inform.

And though I’m not sure whether I Furiosi’s “Losers”exactly falls into the category of universal truth, their October 19 concert explores the theme of loss (they quote Oscar Wilde: “To lose one parent ... may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness”) — but not necessarily in a vein of melancholy. “We tend to make things just a little bit funny,” soprano Gabrielle McLaughlin assures me. The concert featuring works by Froberger, Handel, Purcell and others includes guests, baritone David Roth and harpsichordist Michael Jarvis, and takes place at a new venue, St. David’s Anglican Church.

The juxtaposition of old and new turns up more than once this month, in various guises.Here are four events, each with its own take on this concept:

The marvellous violinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter, appears with the Toronto Symphony on October 3 and 4, playing two contrasting works: In tempus praesens written for her by the contemporary Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina and Bach’s A minor Violin Concerto. You will not hear Bach clothed in the pure transparency of period performance style but you will hear a performance of power and conviction played by a master of her instrument who seeks to express the music’s truth with great artistry.

If you have a penchant for the charms of the recorder and enjoy hearing what it can do in both early and contemporary styles, you’ll be well satisfied on October 9 as the COC presents, in its Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre series, the terrific recorder quartet Flûte Alors! — four young virtuosos from Quebec who play like a dream. They’ll offer an eclectic mix of styles, from the Baroque to contemporary pieces — “Bach to the Beach Boys” as their publicity tells us.

For a time, much of Bach’s music was considered old fashioned and virtually forgotten. But the revival of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829 by the young Felix Mendelssohn kindled the realization that this indeed was music of a towering master, consequently spawning myriad compositions inspired by Bach’s genius. You can savour some of the evidence of his influence on later composers in the realm of choral music, as the Tallis Choir opens its season with four Bach motets and four beautiful works by romantic composers: Brahms, Bruckner, Rheinberger and Mendelssohn. “Bach & The Romantics” is presented at St. Patrick’s Church, Toronto on October 13.

Nota Bene Baroque is the Kitchener-Waterloo region’s own baroque orchestra, with an imaginative three-concert season. They have a very interesting idea for their opener on October 21 titled “Something Old, Something New,” and that is to keep you guessing (for awhile) whether the music you’re hearing is by a baroque or a living composer — there’ll be both on the program, but all composed in baroque style. It’s the audience’s task to discern which pieces have been recently written and which really come from the baroque era. A good chance to hear “baroque” music you’ve truly never heard before!

A few others: The Cardinal Consort of Viols presents an evening of consort songs and instrumental music, featuring Elizabethan and Jacobean composers such as Byrd, Weelkes and Dowland — but not just any music: it all pays special tribute to ladies both real and mythological. The beautiful genre known as the consort song — voice accompanied by viols — features soprano Dawn Bailey as soloist in “Musicke for the Laydies”, which takes place at Royal St. George’s College Chapel on October 6.

Despite earthquakes, war and eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, baroque Naples boasted a vibrant music scene. In concerts entitled “Bella Napoli,” Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra collaborates with the Vesuvius Ensemble and percussionist Ben Grossman to celebrate the musical richness of Naples and southern Italy with rarely heard comic opera arias, tarantellas and street songs; but also concertos and sonatas by Leo, Vinci, A. Scarlatti and Durante. For Tafelmusik, a new first: collaboration with an ensemble that specializes in traditional regional music. Performances take place October 11 to 14 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

The Windermere String Quartet on Period Instruments launches their season with the next in their series “The Golden Age of String Quartets.” For this they’ve chosen quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, linked both by the composers’ admiration for each other and by the fact that each was composed as part of a set of six: the Haydn, from his Op.33 set; the Mozart, one of his six quartets dedicated to Haydn; the Beethoven, one of his Op.18 quartets which were inspired by Mozart’s genius in writing for the genre. The concert takes place at St. Olave’s Anglican Church on October 14.

For details of all these, and others not mentioned, please refer to The WholeNote’s daily listings.

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

A sheaf — no, a barrow-full — of material has landed on my desktop, documenting so many interesting events taking place, far more than seems usual for the month of September, the very beginning of the season. Where to begin, how to tie it all together?

An observation arises, prompted by a concert happening early in September, that lute-like instruments make their gracious appearance all through the month; you can follow them around in several different settings, played by some wonderful artists. That thought is the thread that weaves together this month’s column.

23 early lutelegendsensemble  1 sian richardsLutes, lutes, everywhere lutes:First, to the aforementioned concert. Entitled “Beyond the Silk Road,” it’s the inaugural concert of the Lute Legends Ensemble, three musicians whose specialities are linked by ancient traditions. Bassam Bishara plays oud, Lucas Harris plays lute, and Wen Zhao plays pipa. Harris explains: “The oud is the oldest instrument and the ancestor of the other two. We think that it traveled both East and West on the ancient Silk Road, becoming the 4-stringed pipa in China and the medieval lute in Europe.

“Each of us will be playing two instruments: Bassam will play his regular 6-course oud as well as his new 8-course oud (evidence of which was discovered in a very ancient manuscript about four years ago). Wen will play her normal pipa with metal strings as well as her silk-strung pipa. And I’ll be switching between a Renaissance lute and two different Baroque lutes (one will be in a Chinese pentatonic tuning that I invented to play with Wen).”

The concert will bring the three instruments together in “a cross-traditional experiment for the 21st century.” It takes place at Trinity-St. Paul’s Church on September 8.

23 early matthew wadsworth  2Then there’s the theorbo, described by performer Matthew Wadsworth as “a giant lute” — it’s the formidable long-necked fellow whose presence in any ensemble simply cannot be ignored, with a powerful, very resonant bass register. The instrument developed from the bass lute in the late 16th century, answering the growing need for solid bass support for melodic lines.

It seems that the theorbo’s first appearance this month is at the Toronto Music Garden, where three superb musicians — baroque violinist Christopher Verrette, baroque cellist Kate Bennett Haynes and English theorbist Wadsworth — present a concert entitled “One Hundred Years of Venice,” performing works by Castello, Ferrari, Kapsberger and Vivaldi (who all lived and worked in Venice). We’re particularly fortunate to be able to hear Wadsworth, widely considered to be one of the foremost lutenists of his generation and in great demand as soloist, continuo player and chamber musician on both sides of the Atlantic. This concert takes place on September 16.

23 early henry prince of wales 1610 robert peake - 50 A theorbo will be in the capable hands of Benjamin Stein, as he leads a performance of the magnificent Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, sung one to a part by ten of Toronto’s top choral singers, accompanied by a sparse band of instrumentalists. Stein remarks: “We’re keeping the orchestration very spare, according to Monteverdi’s original score, hoping that the spareness of it allows people to hear the interweaving of voices, and the nature of the text setting, and also allows the continuo team to play and embellish in a stylish manner.” This is the first of this season’s Music at Metropolitan’s Baroque and Beyond series, happening on September 22.

Theorbo and lute (played by Michel Cardin) make up one-half of La Tour Baroque Duo (the other half is recorder and harpsichord, played by Tim Blackmore). You can hear this New Brunswick-based duo in a delightful program in a delightful setting, in their concert “The Last Time I Came O’er the Moor” — suites, variations and sonatas based upon traditional and popular Scottish airs, by Scottish baroque composers and others — presented by the Toronto Early Music Centre at Montgomery’s Inn, the evening of September 29. And don’t forget TEMC’s 28th annual Early Music Fair — a Culture Days event — happening from noon to 4:30pm, also on the 29th at Montgomery’s Inn — you might encounter lutes, viols and lots else!

Another Toronto Culture Days mini-concert showcases the very busy lutenist Lucas Harris, who will perform exquisite lute solos from 18th-century Germany, followed by a question and answer session (your chance to find out more about the lute). Part of the Toronto Centre for the Arts “Season Launch Open House,” this performance takes place at the George Weston Recital Hall on September 30.

The Musicians In Ordinary are back, with their built-in lute/theorbo player John Edwards. This duo brings scholarly research to each of their performances. Their first concert of the season,” His Perfections Like the Sunbeams,” commemorates the life and untimely death of Henry, Prince of Wales, “the best king Britain never had” according to Edwards; had he not died of typhoid at age 18 and been succeeded by his hapless brother Charles, history would have been changed! The concert, taking place on October 6, features the latest avant-garde composers of the time, some of Henry’s favourites: Ferrabosco II, Notari, Coprario and Johnson. Performers include theorbist Edwards and soprano Hallie Fishel with guests, violinist Christopher Verrette and gambist Justin Haynes.

As for that other lute-related instrument, the viol, I’ll mention briefly that you can hear its lovely voice in the following concerts: Music Mondays presents The Cardinal Consort of Viols’ “Rest Awhile Your Cruel Cares,” with music by Dowland, Locke, Jenkins and Purcell (September 17). In Barrie, Colours of Music presents “Fit For A King” — music by Purcell (both Henry and Daniel), Handel and C.P.E. Bach, featuring members of Baroque Music Beside the Grange and two baroque dancers from Opera Atelier (September 26). And in addition to his performance with the Musicians In Ordinary, mentioned above, gambist Haynes will contribute a solo prelude by Marais in a concert of the St. Vincent Baroque Soloists — a program of vocal and instrumental music from the 12th to 18th centuries (September 29).

Lute-free zone:Other events not including lute, oud, pipa, theorbo or viol (though I may well be wrong about that in some cases):

The vibrant English choral group the Tallis Scholars, celebrating their 40th anniversary next season, will visit UofT’s music faculty this month with a program entitled “Miserere: Sorrows of the Virgin Mary.” It features the Renaissance repertoire for which they’ve long been famous — Allegri’s Miserere, and music by Victoria, Praetorius, Guerrero and others (September 12).

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra’s opening group of four concerts, “Bach Brandenburg Concertos,” is indeed “an exuberant season opener,” with the grand sonorities of horns and oboes in Brandenburg Concerto No.1, the showcasing of the strings in No.3 and the rich world of solo harpsichord, violin and flute of No.5, plus a flourish of trumpets, oboes and drums in the Orchestral Suite No.4 (September 21, 22, 23 at Koerner Hall; September 25 at George Weston Recital Hall).

Glenn Gould would be celebrating his 80th birthday on September 25. Unbelievable to think of; but consider this: by that time, J.S. Bach would have attained the age of 327½ years. A concert presented by the Royal Conservatory pays tribute to both these timeless and towering musical geniuses, with a program entitled “David Louie Celebrates Bach and Gould.” RCM faculty member and harpsichordist, Louie, performs Bach’s Italian Concerto, selections from Partita No.4, and with the help of some fine musical colleagues, the Musical Offering. (September 23)

As a preview to their 40th anniversary opening concerts in October, the Toronto Consort brings Janet Cardiff’s award-winning sound installation Forty-Part Motet to Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, as part of Nuit Blanche. This work, based on Tallis’s Spem in alium for 40 separate voices, consists of 40 speakers arranged in a large room, each one representing one voice of the Tallis motet (September 29).

So there you have it, in a nutshell. Welcome, everyone, to the start of a new season!

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

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