p24aAs usual, there’s no shortage of interest on the early music scene this month, as the 2009/10 season draws to a close and the 2010 summer season begins.
Viva BiancaLuna Biffi is a name I hadn’t heard before, until I was alerted to her presence at three different concert series in Southern Ontario this month. This engaging Italian musician has a solid grounding in medieval fiddle, renaissance viola da gamba, baroque cello and voice, and she’s a specialist in the late 15th/early 16th-century form of Italian secular song known as the frottola, a predecessor to the madrigal.

Biffi has revived a long-lost art practised by late renaissance and early baroque musicians, singing the upper line of the songs while performing her own arrangement of the other voices on the viola d’arco (no mean feat!) – and, judging from the audio files I’ve heard, she’s a consummate and I’ll bet completely delightful musical storyteller with a twinkle in her eye, a smile in her voice and an apt sense of accompaniment on her instrument.

The one-woman show she brings to Canada is Fermate il Passo (“Stay a moment, passer-by!”). She describes it as a mini- or proto-opera (opera as we know it had yet to be born), that charts the course of love from sunset to night to dawn. I thought it might be interesting to follow her around and have a look at this area’s summer festivals where she’ll be performing.

On June 19 you can hear Biffi at Knox United Church in Ayr, one of the Grand River Baroque Festival’s two venues. I think she’ll fit in well with the spirit of this festival – it really is a feast of wonderful performers and very unusual programming. Artistic directors Guy Few and Nadina Mackie Jackson have conjured up three days of celebration that include a masquerade gala with fireworks, a concert-combination of Vivaldi and Piazzolla, and another concert of music by Glenn Buhr, Mathieu Lussier, Vivaldi and the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. There’s early music mixed with pop (“Pop-Period Fusion”) and fencing demonstrations too. It all takes place from June 18 to 20, just west of Kitchener in the Buehlow Barn and a bit south of that in Ayr.

Then, after appearances at the Montreal Baroque Festival (June 25) and in Quebec City, Biffi returns to Toronto on July 4 for the Toronto Music Garden’s “Summer Music in the Garden” series, curated by Tamara Bernstein. The design of this lovely public garden was inspired by a Bach unaccompanied cello suite – an appropriate setting for early music – and Biffi’s performance there will be the first of this year’s early music lineup. (There will be more news of what’s to come in the July/August WholeNote.)
Biffi’s final appearance in this area is on July 5 at the Church of the Holy Trinity, in its “Music Mondays” series. Right in the middle of downtown Toronto, you can spend an hour or so on a Monday afternoon in this quiet setting, enveloped in intimate music-making.

Tafelmusik’s  “Baroque Summer Institute” is a comprehensive training programme in baroque performance, now in its ninth year and held at U of T’s Faculty of Music. It attracts about 85 participants from around the world – and no wonder: study includes orchestra and choir rehearsals, masterclasses, opera scene study for singers, chamber ensembles, private lessons, lectures and workshops, classes in baroque dance, and concerts. This year’s Institute takes place from June 6 to 19. During this time four concerts will be presented – June 7, 12, 16 and 19 – featuring either Institute participants or faculty, and ending in a “Grand Finale” with combined forces in a baroque extravaganza. Both faculty and students are top-notch, and one couldn’t go wrong in checking out the fruits of their labours.

A few more concerts

Helmuth Rilling came to town a few weeks ago to conduct the Toronto Symphony and collaborating artists in stunning performances of Bach’s B Minor Mass. A lot of it is still in my ear, and I remember having particular “heroes” within the performing forces – one of whom was the first cellist, whose sheer commitment to the beauty and inexorability of her line was riveting to hear and to see. Winona Zelenka was the cellist – featured in the magazine this month. She’ll be playing at the Glenn Gould Studio on June 6, to celebrate the release of her new two-CD recording of Bach’s cello suites.

About 40 kilometres north of Toronto stands the Sharon Temple, a unique architectural beauty and a testimonial to the vision of the Children of Peace, who built it in the 19th century. The “Music at Sharon” concert series takes place there on Sunday afternoons, and Ensemble Polaris (a group difficult to classify) appears there on June 13. While they seek to explore the music of northern countries and traditions, many of the members of this group are early-music specialists as well, and you can hear ancient influences in their varied and colourful soundscape.

Also on June 13, the Toronto Early Music Centre presents the last of its “Musically Speaking” series for this year. Ensemble L’indiscrète performs the Pièces de clavecin en concerts by Rameau, as well as music by Marais, Buxtehude and Telemann, on harpsichord, baroque violin and viola da gamba.

Another concert at the Sharon Temple that is clearly devoted to early music is a performance by Les Voix Baroques, on July 4. A celebrated ensemble specializing in vocal works from the Renaissance and Baroque, they will perform music by Charpentier and Carrisimi.

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.

p14The Aradia Ensemble has not been one to remain set in what’s usually considered the “baroque music norm.” They’ve often in the past reached out to collaborate with other traditions – for example Irish performers, Isadora Duncan dancers, Balinese gamelan.

The fascinating combination of baroque music and First Nations arts is the focus of their next presentation, “Thunderbird.” Intrigued to know how these two very different cultural expressions could be put together in one concert, I spoke to some of the performers involved. I can do no better than to offer their words:

“The biggest thread that ties together baroque and Aboriginal culture would be the beat that music provides. It starts with the heartbeat, it moves to the drum, the instruments strike up, people’s feet begin to twitch and dance is born. It may seem like a crazy thing to be combining such forces, but in my heart and mind it makes perfect sense that we are doing this concert. We all need music in our lives, no matter where we came from. No matter what exact form that music took during the early periods, we’ve always celebrated through song and movement.”

These are the words of Marion Newman, whose two lives as a classically-trained mezzo-soprano and a First Nations artist merge in “Thunderbird,” a concert centred around a centuries-old legend passed down for generations through the Newman family. On stage to tell it will be revered members of that family: Marion herself, of course; her uncle George Taylor, a renowned drummer and singer of stories of his people; and his son Jason Taylor, who will dance the story using a Thunderbird mask carved by master carver Victor Newman, Marion’s father.

Also on the programme is a new work by West Coast composer Dustin Peters, who explains how baroque and aboriginal elements reside in it: “The piece is not written in a baroque style; rather, sound qualities of a baroque ensemble are heavily considered. The use of harpsichord and chamber organ, gut strings vs. steel strings, period instruments, employing little vibrato in the strings have all played an important part in conceiving the work and its ‘sound.’ The text (in Kwakwala, sourced and developed by Marion Newman) remains the fundamental inspiration. It should also be noted that there is space for improvised contributions from the drummer and dancer written into the work.”

Aradia’s artistic director Kevin Mallon tells of the choices for the other pieces on the programme: “The Thunderbird is considered a ‘supernatural’ bird of power and strength. It is described as a large bird, capable of creating storms and thundering while it flies. The exploration of birds in baroque music is fairly standard, so we have decided to go more along the baroque Tempest way. Central to the baroque element are two works: Matthew Locke’s Music for the Tempest was written in 1674 for Shadwell’s Restoration version of Shakespeare’s Tempest. Included in this incidental music is an extraordinary ‘curtain tune’ which has as one of its markings ‘violent’ – this movement certainly hits the mark with the idea of the Tempest! The other baroque work is Louis-Nicolas Clérambault’s La Muse de l’Opéra. This is like a small opera – the music includes two dynamic storms, roaring waves and the earth trembling.”

This unique event takes place on May 15 in Glenn Gould Studio.

More Concerts

May 2: Community Baroque Orchestra of Toronto. This chamber orchestra specializes in music of the Baroque era performed on period instruments and in period style. They’ll present selections from Charpentier’s David and Jonathan, Telemann’s Water Music, and Lully’s Armide.

May 4: Vicki St. Pierre, a remarkable mezzo who is completing her doctorate in vocal performance at the U of T, gives her DMA recital in Walter Hall, singing solo alto cantatas by Bach and Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater. This free recital is one of many concerts of high artistic quality at universities, begging to be discovered.

May 5 to 8: Classical Music Consort. “2010 Springtime Handel Festival.” In this 4-concert festival at St. James’ Cathedral, some of Handel’s great but lesser-known solo, chamber and vocal music is explored. Founded by harpsichordist/conductor Ashiq Aziz, this group is committed to fostering new and talented performers, as well as giving innovative and enlightened performances of baroque and classical music.

May 7 and 8: The Toronto Consort presents “Lutefest,” which you can read about in this issue’s cover story. How fascinating to bring three world lute traditions together on the same stage!

May 8: The Orpheus Choir of Toronto presents another of Handel’s lesser-performed but great works, his dramatic oratorio Athalia.

May 9: Toronto Early Music Centre’s “Musically Speaking” series deserves to be better-known. In the serene, intimate setting of the Church of the Holy Trinity, these one-hour concerts bring exquisite music and wonderful performances. The series continues with a programme of late 16th-century Spanish and Italian repertoire, featuring soprano Katherine Hill, gambist Joëlle Morton and harpist Julia Seager-Scott.

May 12 to 15: Toronto Masque Theatre presents “A Molière Celebration.” Molière’s collaborations with two giants of French Baroque opera of his time, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jean-Baptiste Lully, are here celebrated in abridged versions (alive with vocal soloists, dancers, actors and baroque orchestra) of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Le Malade Imaginaire.

May 16 in Kitchener: Folia presents “The New Orpheus of Our Times: A Celebration of Arcangelo Corelli.” This is a tribute to the musician whose virtuosity, compositions and teaching brought the violin to new artistic heights.

May 16: Toronto Chamber Choir’s “Kaffeemusik: Bach and the German Motet.” The Choir’s afternoon Kaffeemusiks are mixtures of informative and entertaining commentary by music director Mark Vuorinen and music sung by the choir, with goodies to follow. In this presentation they’re joined by a chamber choir from Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, the school with which TCC has an educational partnership.

May 29: With intention to explore the sacred vocal music of the 17th century, Capella Intima presents a reprise of their well-received programme “Celestial Sirens,” performing a mass and motets by Cozzolani, Leonarda and others.

May 29 and 30, June 1: Tafelmusik presents Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt. As their press release states, “this is a tour de force of choral writing: Handel employs the choir to paint the vivid images of the Exodus on a musical canvas of massive proportions.”

June 5: With their indestructable panache, I Furiosi and guests recall the glory days of major battles and horrified, anxious soldiers, in “I (Furiosi) Declare War.”

June 5: St. Anne's Anglican Church presents “Raise the Roof with Bach.” Bach’s Magnificat in D and works by Vivaldi will be offered in a concert whose proceeds go toward repairs of historic St. Anne’s Church. The domed ceiling and chancel of this beautiful building display mural paintings dating from 1923, by ten Toronto artists, including three members of the Group of Seven.

Finally, the musical world mourns the death of Kenneth Solway, co-founder (with his wife, the late Susan Graves) of Tafelmusik. Their legacy is one of the foremost early music ensembles in the world, right here in Toronto.

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.

 

There’s a relatively new organization in town with a unique purpose: to celebrate the art of continuo playing. The Toronto Continuo Collective was established in the fall of 2005 by Lucas Harris, player of theorbo, lute and Baroque guitar; and Boris Medicky, harpsichordist and organist. Having both worked with the New York Continuo Collective, these two musicians saw fertile ground for nurturing this art in Toronto.

Lucas Harris 1Continuo is the art of interpreting the accompaniment to a melody as practised in the Baroque era, starting with a written bass line and (often but not always) attendant symbols known as “figures.” A good continuo player (lutenist, guitarist, keyboardist or harpist) can interpret the implied harmonies, and also has a handle on the appropriate stylistic elements – ornamentation, word painting, etc. – that make the music expressive, colourful and interesting. This takes some expertise, which the musicians of the ToCC are enthusiastically immersed in developing.

Of course, having a melody to accompany is a fundamental necessity, so a Singers’ Collective was also created as a parallel workshop for singers interested in working on Baroque vocal style, technique, gesture etc. These two groups working together have produced several staged performances.

Borys Medicky 1 1505On the evenings of April 11 and 12 they’ll present the latest in their projects: a performance of scenes from Cavalli’s 1645 opera Doriclea, along with Italian instrumental music from the same period. With theorbos, lutes, harpsichord, viola da gamba, Baroque harp, Baroque guitar, a string ensemble and eight singers, they’ll tell stories of the character Doriclea who oscillates between female and male, along with suitors and foes in love and war.

Also on April 11 (in the afternoon, fortunately), there’s a concert performance by two gamba players I admire, Kate Bennett Haynes and Justin Haynes. They’ll be playing solo repertoire for bass instruments – gorgeous music from early 18th-century France, works by Marais, Barriere and Boismortier. This concert is one of the “Musically Speaking” series presented by the Toronto Early Music Centre, an organization whose name is very familiar to me. However, after thinking about it, I admitted to myself that I have a pretty sketchy idea of what, exactly, the Toronto Early Music Centre does. So I asked president Frank Nakashima to tell me a bit about the focus of TEMC’s activities.

These are summed up in its mandate: “This non-profit organization promotes the appreciation of historically informed performances of early music in the community through sponsorship of concerts and activities such as lectures, workshops, exhibitions and masterclasses with visiting and local artists.” It has been active since its founding in 1984 – and is more a “centre” in the philosophical rather than the physical sense. Its role is often behind the scenes: sponsoring and supporting events through organizing venues and advertising concert appearances.

But the TEMC also has a visible component. It hosts the well-known Early Music Fair, held at Montgomery’s Inn every September, as well as the TEMC Vocal Circle, which meets once a month to explore early choral music. And its own concert series, “Musically Speaking,” occurs monthly from January to June at Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity.

Concerning this series, Nakashima tells me: “We try to make it as inviting and as friendly as possible, not just enticing, but to create a learning environment. These programmes are only one hour in length, and are meant to provide an opportunity, especially for the uninitiated, to give early music a try. Pay-what-you-can admission isn’t a big financial risk. I encourage the performers to be interactive and engaging, with the intent of helping the audience to leave that concert having learned something about their music.”

Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

 

More concerts

Julia Wedman 1April 7 to 11: Tafelmusik violinist Julia Wedman, in collaboration with Earth Day Canada, has conceived the programme “Forces of Nature: An Earth Day Celebration,” taking us on a musical journey with our Earth through the course of a single day. Not only music by Rameau, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Haydn, Telemann and Buonamente, but also a pre-concert lecture, a gallery of photography and interactive displays will be available.

April 17 & 18: My mistress has a laugh sweeter than honey…” This is just one of the many attributes of women that will be celebrated by the 15-voice a cappella Cantemus Singers in Renaissance poetry and song. This programme is presented on Saturday evening at Hope United Church, Danforth and Main; and on Sunday afternoon at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Keele and Glenlake.

April 18, in Kitchener: Nota Bene Period Orchestra with their guest, Tactus Vocal Ensemble, presents “Meet you at the Crossroad.” In recognition that Easter 2010 marks a crossroad in the calendars of the Western and Eastern Orthodox faiths, music celebrating both traditions will be explored.

April 23: Sine Nomine Ensemble for Medieval Music presents “Fort oultrageuse et desraisonable depense – Music for medieval feasts and occasions.” Banquets, weddings, coronations could be lavish affairs, as this selection of music and readings reveal.

April 24: In their final concert of the season, “Songs of the Americas,” Musicians In Ordinary takes us to Latin America and the USA with songs and guitar solos from the 17th to 19th centuries.

April 24: Scaramella presents “Stylus Phantasticus,” featuring music that reveals all kinds of extraordinary harmonic and melodic ingenuity, by composers who were not afraid to break a few rules.

May 5 to 8: The Classical Music Consort, directed by Ashiq Aziz, presents “Handel @ St. James.” In this four-concert festival, various facets of Handel’s genius are explored in lesser-known solo, chamber and vocal music.

There’s a lot more! A brief search through this month’s listings reveals a string trio version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, presented twice by Trio Accord (April 5 in Waterloo and April 8 in Toronto); Bach organ music played by Philip Fournier (April 17); the Pergolesi Stabat Mater sung by Cantores Celestes Women’s Choir (April 17); recorder duets from the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries played by Claudia Ophardt and Colin Savage (April 8); music by Palestrina, Victoria, Vivaldi – and other treasures for you to find.

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.

Mooredale Concerts, under artistic director Anton Kuerti, is second to none in bringing artists of the highest standard from Canada and beyond to its main concert series. As well, it’s a nurturing force for young musicians through its Mooredale Youth Orchestras and Music and Truffles concerts. The next programme well illustrates the series’ various facets: on March 7, Mooredale will bring Les Violons du Roy to town.

page 13_Violons du Roy - photo by LucDelisleNow in its 25th-anniversary season, this chamber orchestra was founded by music director Bernard Labadie and is based in Quebec City. Through its many concerts, broadcasts, recordings and much touring the orchestra has developed an international reputation for the energy and vitality of its performances. Its repertoire is wide ranging – from baroque to present day – and always performed in the stylistic manner most appropriate to each era. When playing music from the baroque and classical periods, the musicians use modern instruments, but also copies of period bows to conform with the performance practice of the era.

Their March 7 concerts are dedicated to the vibrant string concertos of Vivaldi. You’ll hear why this group is so renowned: each of its members is a soloist in his or her own right, and almost all of them will be featured as such in these concerts.

Yes, I do mean the plural – “concerts.” A unique and charming feature of Mooredale Concerts is Music and Truffles: a one-hour, interactive version of the 3:15pm concert, taking place at 1:15pm and designed for children. But you don’t have to be a child to attend; all you need is the curiosity to learn more about the great music and artists being presented that day.

Please note, too, that there’s yet another chance to hear Les Violons du Roy in the southern Ontario area this month, as they’ll be presenting the same programme in London on March 6. You’ll find the details in our Beyond GTA listings.

… and more!

It’s hard to know how to continue describing the early music scene this month, as March is turning out to be such a treasure trove of riches. Some of this has to do with the approaching Christian holy days of Easter weekend, which have inspired an enormous wealth of musical creativity throughout the ages. You’ll discover music (most often involving voices) that is not heard at any other time of year. Several other concerts this month have to do with Bach, as his devotees have a penchant for celebrating his birthday (March 21) by performing his music.

Here are some concerts you might not want to miss:

The music of the early German Baroque is replete with magnificent sacred works for massed forces of voices and instruments. The Toronto Consort presents heartfelt works of anguish and redemption from this era in their programme “From Praetorius to Bach: Visions of Darkness and Light.” You will revel in the sounds of a large ensemble of rarely heard instruments including sackbuts and cornetti, as well as singers (even in works for double choir), strings, lutes and keyboards, in music by Praetorius, Schütz, Schein, Bach and others.

The Tallis Choir with its conductor Peter Mahon take us to the Royal Convent of Madrid during Holy Week, 1611, to hear some of the most glorious polyphonic music ever written for voices. Tomás Luis de Victoria’s “Tenebrae for Good Friday” is from a magnificent collection of music he wrote for this portion of the Christian liturgical year – choral music of unparalleled dramatic expressiveness. It will be performed in the enveloping acoustical setting of St. Patrick’s Church.

If you seek drama as well as poignant music in the re-telling of the Easter story, there’s no better place to find them than in Bach’s St. John Passion. Chorus Niagara with conductor Robert Cooper presents this trenchant work twice, in Grimsby and in St. Catharines.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir present Bach in Leipzig, an imaginative journey to 18th-century Leipzig where Bach lived and worked from 1723 till his death. This is the latest of several acclaimed presentations designed by Tafelmusik’s own Alison Mackay, and one that is sure to bring to life a colourful array of characters and a vigorous community, as well as highlighting the variety and breadth of the music Bach composed during his long tenure in that city.

Toronto Early Music Centre’s Musically Speaking presentation is entitled “The Grand Tour.” This tradition Flourished in the 1660s as the customary English gentleman’s post-Oxbridge cultural education, serving as a rite of passage. You’ll hear music that such a traveller might have heard during Purcell’s lifetime, taking the Grand Tour from England through France to Italy.

In Port Dover, Arcady and its artistic director Ronald Beckett present “A Baroque Miscellany,” with works by Bach, Sammartini, Handel, Corelli, Telemann and Beckett played on violin, recorder and keyboard.

Aradia Ensemble presents “The English Orpheus.” In Greek mythology, the god Orpheus is credited with being the inspiration for literature, poetry, drama and music. Who might be his counterpart in later times but Purcell, who set poetry to music so brilliantly and wrote so much wonderful incidental music to plays? Aradia Ensemble under its artistic director Kevin Mallon explores some of this, presenting the original text alongside the music for plays such as Don Quixote (with excerpts from Thomas D’ Urfey’s play) and for Bonduca, or The British Heroine (with excerpts from John Fletcher’s play).

An enchantress she is, and a passionate explorer of all kinds of repertoire. In Tafelmusik’s programme entitled “Enchantress,” soprano Karina Gauvin displays her lovely virtuosity in music by Vivaldi and Handel; the orchestra does the same in complementary pieces by Vivaldi and Locatelli.


If you go to Kingston you can have a crash course in baroque music everyone should know, as the Kingston Symphony Orchestra presents “Classics 101.” You’ll hear such beloved pieces as Vivaldi’s
Four Seasons, Handel’s Water Music Suite, Pachelbel’s Canon and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3. Gisèle Dalbec, the orchestra’s concertmaster, is the featured soloist.

Buxtehude’s Passion oratorio Membra Jesu Nostri is an amazingly daring outpouring of grief, seven cantatas each based on a medieval hymn, that meditate on the feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart and face of the crucified Christ. Scored generally for five soloists, choir, two solo violins and continuo, the emotion is softened by the appearance of a quintet of viols in the sixth cantata, “To His Heart.” Composed for Passion Week of 1680, it will be presented by the Toronto Chamber Choir with its conductor Mark Vuorinen.

If you go to Kitchener you can hear Bach’s monumental B Minor Mass, performed by the Grand Philharmonic Choir and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony – a performance especially notable as it will be one of the last conducted by the Choir’s director of 38 seasons, Howard Dyck. The featured soloists are an impressive quartet of Canadians: soprano Suzie Leblanc, mezzo Laura Pudwell, tenor Michael Schade and baritone Russell Braun.

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.


“First there’s God; then there’s Bach; then there’s the rest of us,” was the credo of a friend of mine. Obviously a lot of people tend to agree about Bach’s supremacy in the artistic scheme of things, evident from the number of performances – even an entire concert – devoted to his chamber works this month. Bach’s creative genius is given a wide overview, as many of the pieces presented date from the early years of his career; and one, The Musical Offering, dates from three years before his death.

The Academy Concert Series


The Academy Concert Series has maintained a quiet presence in the east end of the city, yet there’s something very passionate about their presentations: an obvious devotion to presenting music in a historically-informed style with enthusiasm and integrity. Artistic director Nicolai Tarasov tells of the genesis of the series, “The beginning of the 1990s was still very much a continuation of the major discoveries and achievements in the field of “historically presented” music of the 80s. We (meaning Tarasov, a performer on several wind instruments, and founders baroque cellist/gambist Sergei Istomin and harpsichordist Viviana Sofronitsky) had our vision of how this music should sound, and wanted to share it with the audience.” Now, after almost two decades – 2010 /11 will be their 20th anniversary season – the series has broadened to include music from the early period to contemporary.


P11Their February concert, “Bach and the King,” consists entirely of one masterpiece: Bach’s Musical Offering. It was 1747 when King Frederick of Prussia gave “old Bach” that cryptic theme on which to extemporize a fugue; Bach subsequently took it home and developed it into an ingenious, multi-interpretable series of 12 canons and fugues, and one trio sonata, all displaying an incredible mastery of the art of counterpoint. There are mirror and crab canons, a never-ending canon, an instruction to “Seek and ye shall find!” – for Bach slyly set down some of the music as puzzles for the musicians to solve.

Tarasov sets the stage: “The very nature of the work offers a multiplicity of possible solutions. The open-endedness of the composer’s intentions invites players to enter into the spirit of the game and try different things. Venturing some distance down this path, we are offering a number of new realizations of Bach’s canons, as well as a  new order of the parts for better balance of the whole programme, and an entirely new instrumentation. It will be an evening of musical discoveries and delights!”

This is a wonderful and rare opportunity to hear what, in Tarasov’s words, is “a unique phenomenon in music. The symmetry and proportion, the emotional intensity and balance it exhibits are matchless even for Bach. In it is held the unfathomable and mysterious musical world, which reaches far and wide into the metaphysical Beyond, similar to
The Art of the Fugue or to the last string quartets of Beethoven.”

In addition to Nicolai Tarasov, who plays baroque oboe and recorder, you’ll hear Rona Goldensher, baroque violin; Laura Jones, viola da gamba; and Paul Jenkins, harpsichord. The concert takes place on February 13 at Eastminster United Church.


More Bach

Several upcoming concerts involve music from Bach’s younger years, for solo stringed instruments with or without keyboard accompaniment. The suites for solo cello, the sonatas for violin and harpsichord, and the sonatas for viola da gamba and keyboard are all represented:

On February 6, if you travel to Norval, near Georgetown, you’ll have a chance to hear the joyful G major suite for solo cello played by cellist Mary-Katherine Finch, as part of the Georgetown Bach Chorale’s “Cathedral Compositions”
concert – a programme which also includes choral works such as Allegri’s Miserere and Lotti’s Crucifixus.

You have
two chances to hear the grave and beautiful Cello Suite in D Minor (it contains my favourite of the sarabandes for solo cello). On February 7, in the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Mazzoleni Hall, it will be played not on cello but on double bass by the Toronto Symphony’s principal bassist, Jeffrey Beecher (a concert which also includes modern works for bass). On February 14, cellist Nathan Whittaker will perform it in the Toronto Early Music Centre’s “Musically Speaking” series (which also features soprano Linda Tsatsanis singing delicious love songs of the 17th century).

Bach’s sonatas for violin and harpsichord pour forth movement after movement of exquisitely expressive music. On February 7 in Kitchener, Folia presents the second in a pair of concerts, entitled “Bach Sonatas in the Afternoon, Part 2
.” Violinist Linda Melsted and harpsichordist Borys Medicky will perform.

And on February 13, Scaramella’s “A Bach Extravaganza”
features artistic director Joëlle Morton and harpsichordist Sara-Anne Churchill in a performance of all three of Bach’s sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord – a programme special not only for Bach’s music but because two Canadian works will also be featured, and because the instrument showcased is the 1699 Joachim Tielke bass viol owned by Hart House.

More Concerts


Okay, it’s true that concerts featuring Bach are not the only interesting happenings on the early music scene this month. Some of the others you’ll find in the listings are:

The Cardinal Consort of Viols present
Love & Regretz, as part of Christ Church Deer Park’s Lunchtime Chamber Music Series.

Human weakness and the iniquities of the powerful
are explored in Sine Nomine’s Vanitas et corruptio, a programme of medieval songs of parody and satire.

Nota Bene Period Orchestra teams up with La
Belle Danse baroque dance company to present Baroque Dance: Courtesans from Versailles. The concert takes place on Feb. 28 in Kitchener; there is also an open dress rehearsal on Feb. 27 in Toronto.

The Windermere String Quartet, whose mandate is to
explore the well-known masterworks as well as lesser-known gems of the string quartet repertoire on period instruments, presents a programme of Mozart, Haydn and Georges Onslow quartets.

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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