Get to know TBSI soprano Emily Yocum Black

Emily Yocum Black

Soprano Emily Yocum Black joins us at TBSI this season from Paducah, Kentucky. TBSI, the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, is an intense two week course that includes masterclasses, orchestra and choir rehearsals, chamber ensembles, private lessons, dance classes, opera scene study, and an array of lectures and workshops.

Despite the busy schedule, we were able to catch up with Emily. Get to know Emily with our Q&A.

How did you get into singing?

I grew up with singing in the house – my mom and grandmother are really wonderful singers and they both play the guitar and sing in harmony by ear so I was brought up in that environment. My interests widened to musical theatre and choir in high school and when I went to college I really became interested in all genres of vocal repertoire. From the beginning of my formal music training, baroque music seemed to fit very naturally with my voice and throughout my undergrad and graduate degrees, I explored more and more of this repertoire. I still really enjoy singing and performing many different types of music!

Why did you decide to come to TBSI?

I first heard about Tafelmusik when I attended a summer program called SongFest in my undergrad. One of my roommates was from Toronto and she introduced me to the group and their recordings. Some time after that, I “followed” Tafelmusik on Instagram and saw their post about TBSI and I decided to apply! I am one year out of my masters and I am now trying to get a little bit of focus going forward in my career. This program seemed like the perfect fit for really immersing myself in early music with some of the very best instructors in the field!

What is one of your favourite parts about TBSI so far?

I love collaborating with all of my fellow colleagues in the various ensembles. So far, I’ve worked very closely with not only my fellow vocalists but with flutists, violinists, viola d’amore players, harpsichordists, cellists, lute players, etc. I have learned so much just by being involved and in tune with their processes in music-making and how that intertwines with mine.

What is one of your most memorable gigs?

My very first gig with period baroque instruments was Handel’s Messiah with Bourbon Baroque in Louisville, KY where we performed the entire work with 12 singers – each singer also acting as soloists throughout. I’ve performed this gig with them for the past three years and even though it’s something that is done so often, especially during Advent, getting to do the piece with such a small ensemble really brings life and energy to Messiah that I think is sometimes lost.

Who is your favourite composer to perform? (Doesn’t have to be baroque)

Oh gosh, this is like asking what kind of cheese you like best (also a hard question for me to answer). I’d probably have to say Mozart, although Bach is way up there as well.

What is your ‘guilty pleasure’ music to listen to?

90’s country pop … especially The Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces album. I know every word.

What are the last three songs/pieces you’ve listened to?

Handel – Tornami a vagheggiar (Alcina)
Nickel Creek – The Lighthouse’s Tale
ABBA – Super Trooper
(I feel like this is a very accurate representation of my wide musical tastes)

What is your favourite thing to do in your hometown during your free time?

I love to cycle down to our local brewery and have a beer out on the patio with family right around sunset.

What do you look forward to seeing/doing in Toronto?

Well, we visited the Toronto Islands this weekend and that was beautiful! I loved the view of the city from the islands and all the cottages. I am also looking forward to having some poutine – which I know is really a Quebec food however I’m sure it’s going to be more authentic than the poutine I’ve eaten in my native state of Kentucky. We do fried chicken much better than poutine, I think.

What is your great ambition?

I honestly think my greatest ambition is to make music as long as I can to the best of my ability with authenticity, beauty, love, and passion for the art form. From singing on a big concert stage to a gymnasium full of kids, I hope I can always adhere to that ideal.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My parents, for certain. They have supported me so much in everything that I’ve done and have always encouraged me to do what makes me happy. They are the most compassionate and caring humans I have ever known and I would do well to live life half as fully as they do.

Where do you see yourself 10 years in the future?

I see myself traveling around the country performing with various ensembles specializing in the early music repertoire, yet certainly being able and open to performing all different kinds of music. But always returning to my home-base in Paducah, KY where I’d like to continue to foster new music-makers and lovers through teaching voice.

What words of wisdom would you pass onto future TBSI participants?

It is a whirlwind two weeks but there is so much information and knowledge to be gained here. From the lectures to the masterclasses and concerts, soak up as much of it as you possibly can! Where will you find such an amazing assemblage of faculty and students all intensely focused on the baroque for 14 days?!

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Australia Tour 2018: Improvising on the Road

by Patrick Jordan, viola

Patrick Jordan, viola. Image: Sian Richards

One of the most civilized things about touring in Australia is that about half the time, we are put up in apartment hotels. Australians travel a great deal both internationally and domestically and so have worked some of these things out very well. The basic idea is this: in each accommodation there are two separate bedrooms which share a small living area and kitchen, most often with laundry facilities. The laundry facilities are most welcome on a three week tour when you only have 23 kg of luggage space!

 

One of the least civilized things about touring in general is that I am away from my kitchen, where I spend an inordinate amount of time cooking. I’m sure you see where this is headed. Apartment hotel with a modestly appointed kitchen, check! An evening off in Melbourne, check! The fantastic Queen Victoria Market a 20-minute walk away, check!

Queen Victoria Market. Photo: slowenglish.wordpress.com

What might not be so obvious is what I decided to cook. My treasured friend and colleague, oboist Marco Cera, has introduced me to several specialties of the Italian region of Veneto, where he grew up. Under his watchful gaze and with access to his mother’s recipes, I have learned several dishes, including baccala alla vicentina (salt cod braised in milk) and bigoli col anatra (a sort of fat spaghetti with duck ragu). Many years ago, as we were walking down the street in Seoul, Marco asked me, with his very dry sense of humour, “Patrizio, do you think we’re gonna find bigoli col anatra here?” To which I blandly replied, “Absolutely …” This has become something of a running joke, asked when we’re in some very unlikely place, “Patrizio, do you think we’re gonna find bigoli col anatra here?”

Nifra Poultry

Knowing we had time and opportunity, I decided that yes, in Melbourne, if possible, we were going to find bigoli col anatra. Or more accurately, I was going to find the ingredients and prepare it. I just love the challenge of trying to do something very specific in a very different locale, in part because it forces one to overcome some limitations, but also offers the opportunity to engage with local people in a way that one might not otherwise.

Patrick in his hotel kitchen with kangaroo sausages (kangah-bangahs)

Job one was to figure out what was practical in our very small kitchen (on this tour, Brandon Chui and I have shared accommodation). Of course, if you’re going to cook, why just make pasta? How about a second course as well? And you’ll need a little antipasto, too, to be properly welcoming. It is late autumn here, so we needed a menu that reflected the season as well. With the limited battery of pots and pans (and an eye to NOT setting off the smoke alarms), I could see doing the pasta and sauce, poached-then-browned kangaroo sausages (kangah-bangahs) with garlicky mashed potatoes along with some appropriate vegetable, and an antipasto to be named when at the market. Market, here I come!

The lynchpin of the meal was the duck, and if I couldn’t swing that, the whole meal would require a rethink. I had two sharp, but small knives, and I had decided that if I couldn’t find ground duck, I was not going to spend 45 minutes (and risk tendinitis) cutting it up myself; every challenge does have it’s limits. From previous tours, I remembered a nice butcher shop that deals in game, and when I got there, there was lovely duck breast to be had. I asked the young man serving me if he was set up to grind it, and he looked at me quizzically and said “I’m gonna have to work out what you mean by grind…” when a tiny, septuagenarian fellow-shopper in the queue next to me chirped, “MINCED!!” Yes he could mince it, problem solved. I also picked up the kangah-bangahs as I remembered them from our last trip to Melbourne — slightly garlicky with a hint of sun-dried tomato and basil. As he handed over my purchases, he asked, “Mind if I ask what you’re making with the duck?” I described both the dish and the friend who had asked for it, and he asked if I was a chef. I said no, just a devoted amateur. “A VERY devoted amateur with a very lucky friend I’d say,” he replied. Flattery will get you everywhere, mate; I’m sure I’ll be back to that shop if I’m lucky enough to revisit Melbourne!

 

The vegetable vendors were heavy with potatoes (all the ones I’ve seen in Australia have been squeaky clean, interestingly enough), and I got the rundown on which one would be best to mash: largish beautiful pink ones. It is autumn, again, and one of the veg dealers had the cutest, most tender looking broccolini, not cheap, but hey, you get what you pay for or a little less. Another part of this challenge is to minimize waste, and buy precisely what one needs. Butter came in bulk at one of the cheese shops so I could buy the 200g I needed. I picked up a half a head of garlic nobody else would likely buy, dropped 20 cents on a carrot and found a slightly mangled half a stalk of celery (it was headed for the sauce, so I was only going to mangle it further). One misstep was the pancetta required for the duck sauce; I asked twice to be sure it wasn’t smoked, but when I got back to the apartment I discovered it was (Marco said in the end that he didn’t mind). Olives looked good: one variety from Australia, a second from Sicily. I normally travel with both salt and pepper mills — the gods of improvisation smile on the man who is prepared.

Patrick and Dominic working in the kitchen

Everyone offered to help, but the kitchen was so small only one other bum would fit in it. With the able assistance of Dominic Teresi, dinner was served, savoured, and devoured. Among the limitations I couldn’t easily overcome in this case were serving space and capacity. To actually have a place to sit at the small table and have cutlery to use in our apartment, I had to limit the guest list to five, and I don’t think the pots and pans could have handled much more. All of which is to acknowledge that if my colleagues read this I may be in some hot water! On the other hand, after two weeks on the road I should be careful about presupposing that anyone would be looking for my company!

 


For the full Australia tour schedule, visit tafelmusik.org/Tours

Australia Tour 2018: A Day in the Life of a Tafelmusik Technician

By Patrick Lavender, touring video operator

Patrick joins us on our 2018 Australia tour for his first tour with the orchestra. As the video operator, Patrick runs the projections during a live performance, which includes still images and video, timing it perfectly with musical and speaking cues while following a score of the music. When the orchestra was in Canberra, Patrick gave us a look in a day in the life of a technician on the road.

Video operator Patrick Lavender and this partner, lighting associate Kaitlin at the zero-kilometre mark.

8:00am – Wake up, hit snooze.

8:10am – Wake up, drink instant coffee.  This is the standard in Australian hotels. In a country steeped in coffee culture, I was a little surprised.  Note to self: next time, bring a press.

9:30am – After a nice breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt, served in my hotel room coffee cup, I venture into the outside world for a proper cup of coffee.  A couple cappuccinos later and I’m ready for the day!

9:45am – Most mornings we walk to the venue. Today in Canberra we are a few blocks further and are picked up by our wonderful Musica Viva Tour Manager, Rebecca.  It is 5˚ C, and I can see my breath outside. This is the furthest south we will stop on the entire tour.

10:00am – We arrive at Llewellyn Hall, Canberra, and unload the 50’ tour transport truck.  This might be slightly overkill for a harpsichord, double bass, and 6 video cases.  The crew here is lovely, and we begin the “bump in” (Australian for Load In).

Bumping in at 10am

11:45am – Break, time for a Tim Tam Slam, a proper Australian sugar treat initiation.  Please see the video below!

12:30pm – After finishing my video focus and setup, I retire to the greenroom for a few more Tim Tams (an Australian delicacy in my opinion), another cup of coffee, and some gummy candies (my weakness).  Time to head back to the hotel.

1:00pm – On my walk back to the hotel, I stop at a small Indonesian take-away joint and order a Nasi Goreng. I’m realizing this blog could also be titled: A Day in the Life of a Tafelmusik Technician / A Culinary Cruise of Canberra / I’m Basically Blogging About Food. I get back to the hotel, take a bath, and change into my show clothes.

2:45pm – Meet in the lobby and hitch a ride back to the venue. Time for more gummies and Tim Tams (Tim Tam daily count 5 … okay 7).

View of Llewellyn Hall, ANU School of Music at 3:30pm

4:00pm – Alison Mackay and I look through the video images and make a few adjustments to brightness and contrast.

5:15pm – Following music rehearsal, Blair and I run through some of the challenging video sequences. After a few passes of each section, we are ready for tonight’s performance.

5:45pm – Dinner is served in the backstage greenroom.  Tonight is a selection of curries, green salad, and of course a table of sweets. Time for one more Tim Tam Slam, and I’m ready for my final preshow checks.

6:15pm – I chat with the venue stage manager, Rachel, to go over the top of show and intermission procedures.  We check to ensure our communication system is functioning correctly, execute our preshow lighting and video cues, turn the house lights up, and then we are ready for the audience to enter the hall.

6:30pm – I dart back to the greenroom to continue writing this blog.  There is a flurry of action, musicians tuning, children playing [Cristina Zacharias and Elisa Citterio are travelling with their toddlers], some final preshow snacks, and one last chance for the musicians to practise a few of the more challenging phrases of music.  Glenn comments that all the musical chaos forms a sort of perfect musical storm, a cacophonous ensemble of pre-performance sounds.

6:50pm – Time to take my place at the back of the hall.

7:00pm – The audience takes their seats.  I take a few deep breaths, the musicians enter the stage, and away we go!

9:00pm – The musicians take their final bow. It has been an excellent show for everyone. I have executed all 250 video cues and 60 lighting cues without error – my best show yet!

10:00pm –The last case is loaded onto the oversized truck, and the bump out is complete.

10:30pm – Back at the hotel I convince my partner Kaitlin Hickey, (also on tour, as the lighting associate) to head out for some late night food and drink. This proved more difficult than we imagined. Does no one eat after 6pm?! After trying 3 or 4 establishments we end up at a Japanese bar.  I’m already planning my next meals once we to return to Melbourne, where the culinary options seem limitless, and delicious.  Perhaps some Italian for lunch at Pellegrini’s and Szechuan for dinner at Dainty’s?

11:30pm – We head back to the hotel and retire for the night.  10am tour bus departure tomorrow for our 1pm flight back to Melbourne.  So far we have flown  22,311 km since leaving Toronto. That’s the equivalent of driving from St. John’s to Victoria over 4 times.  Kaitlin and I are keeping a tally this season.  Over the next 5 months we will travel to 4 different continents, touring with Tafelmusik and Volcano Theatre.

What a great way to see the world!

Behind the booth with Patrick

For the full Australia tour schedule, visit tafelmusik.org/Tours

Australia Tour 2018: Perth

By Brandon Chui, viola

I remember receiving the email from Tafelmusik Operations Manager Beth Anderson with the invitation to go to Australia to perform Alison McKay’s memorized program Bach and His World (aka J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation). It was a cold afternoon in January 2017, and I was hanging out in the men’s dressing room at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts, home of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra with whom I was previously a member. Having already done a Tafelmusik memorized program in the past (The Galileo Project, Japan/Korea tour 2013), I was thrilled to take on the challenge of doing another one of these projects. And in Australia? Aw hell yeah, sign me up! And here I am, a year-and-a-bit later, hanging out at the Sensory Lab cafe in Melbourne on a dreary Monday morning, two days after our concert in Perth, the first on an 6-city, 8-concert run in the land down under.

Perth ConcertHall. Photo: Brandon Chui

People who know me know that I am a big consumer of food. I have been known to drive across the city, out to Markham, during a snow storm just to get a Mango Saigo at our favourite Chinese dessert spot. And while I may not be quite as extreme as that while on tour, a lot of time is spent thinking about what will satisfy the belly. It was about a year ago that I spent three weeks playing out in Kuala Lumpur, and you can ask my wife — I’ve been talking about Malaysian food non-stop for the last month. I miss everything about it — the smells, tastes, flavours, spices, the sense of family that goes into a simple looking Nasi Lemak. I can’t tell you how happy and excited I was to see the number of hits after Googling, “Malaysian restaurant Perth” (try the same for Toronto … not many, though special mention to One2Snacks for making a mean Hokkien Mee!), with the highly rated Insan’s Cafe being a 4-minute walk from our hotel! I’m embarrassed to report that your Tafelmusik viola section, Patrick G. Jordan and myself, ate at Insan’s Cafe three times in 36 hours. I mean, hey, why not? Amazing food, relatively cheap, close by — no need to even think about it! The memories it brought back were amazing, minus the heat, humidity and depending on where you choose to get your Nasi Campur in KL, the scooter exhaust!

And while food is the tour side-show, music is the real reason we’re here. The music of Bach is a source of spiritual uplift and the embodiment of why we do what we do, and to play this program featuring exclusively the music of this music god with my friends and colleagues of Tafelmusik leaves me in awe. As I sit there listening to Elisa, Chris, Christina, and Olivier play the second movement to Bach’s Trio Sonata BWV1039, I always think that I’m the luckiest person alive.

(L-R) Christopher Verrette (violin), Christina Mahler (violincello), Elisa Citterio (violin), and Olivier Fortin (harpsichord). Photo: Brandon Chui

What you and our audiences the world over hear are the fruits of hundreds of hard individual and collective work. From the individual memory work we all have to put in,  to the “play dates” where any number of players will get together (before a rehearsal or concert of a completely unrelated program at home) to run through music — these are all seeds that give way to the beautiful harvest of Bach and His World. And just to take you behind the curtain a little bit more, the parts that the violinists of Tafelmusik play in this program are always fluid, meaning each player often plays different parts with each run. For example, because Chris Verrette was not on the East Coast Canadian Tour in November 2017, parts were re-distributed among the other violinists to make up for his absence. Tricia Ahern broke her arm before the March 2018 run in Toronto, and now Genevieve Gillardeau is not able to join us in Australia, so people have to learn different parts to fill in. Add to that the different stages and their geographical layouts (which call for adjustments to where people walk and stand), acoustics (how do we balance, articulate, and pull our sounds differently?) and ever-evolving musical concepts, what you get is a product in constant change, ever growing and changing with each performance.

And just like my food – I LIKE THAT.


The orchestra has now performed in Perth and Melbourne. For the full Australia tour schedule, visit tafelmusik.org/Tours

My Journey with Bach

By John Abberger, oboe

I have always been fascinated with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. With music loving parents, I probably heard his music as a small child. I remember the moment when I became absolutely captivated by one of his compositions as a youth. How does he do it? How does his music reach so deep inside us, and how does it have such an uncanny ability to express so profoundly what it is to be human? Performing Bach’s music has been a touchstone of my career as a musician. It’s almost as if I set out on a journey (without realizing it as such) to try to understand Bach’s music deeply, and to communicate this understanding to an audience by performing these compositions to the best of my ability.

Over the course of my forty-year career I have learned that the more you give of yourself to Bach’s music the more it gives back. My love and fascination for Bach’s music led me, in my early days as a professional, to the period instrument movement and the study of historical performance practice. This was a revelation for me. Performing Bach’s music on an oboe that at least resembles one he would have recognized, and understanding in some small way the performance practices and modes of expression that were part of his musical language has vastly increased my appreciation for the expert craft with which his compositions are created.

Musicians of Toronto Bach Festival

Bach wrote a quite a lot of music, and his music is performed the world over by many fine music organizations. But an organization devoted to the performance of music by many composers from many centuries cannot perform more than a small number of his compositions with any regularity. A Bach Festival, on the other hand, exists to focus the attention of its audience only on Bach’s music. The Toronto Bach Festival takes as its mission the goal of increasing and deepening our collective understanding of Bach’s art. This includes:

  • performing all of his music, to broaden our experience of his art.
  • performing music by his predecessors to provide some understanding of the traditions within which he worked.
  • performing music by composers whose works were profoundly influenced by his music.

With each iteration of the festival I want to enrich our audience’s experience of Bach’s music. I want to show you the incredible delights of his keyboard music, in many ways Bach’s most personal music. I want to celebrate with you the joys of the instrumental music, both chamber and orchestral. And I want you to experience the wonders of his choral works, much of which you have never heard before.

As I have matured as a musician the depth of my appreciation for Bach’s music has grown considerably. I have come to understand in great detail how Bach uses the harmonic language of his time with such expressiveness. I have learned how he used the musical structures of his time so effectively. I have learned how he set the texts of his vocal works with such amazing clarity. But when all is said and done, I feel I am no closer to explaining how he does it, how he speaks to the innermost core of our being with such devastating insight. This, to me, is the essence of Art: to use the materials at hand to create something that adds up to far, far more than the sum of its parts.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performing The Circle of Creation with a portrait of Bach on a screen.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performing “J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation.” Photo by Glenn Davidson

What was that performance that captivated me as a youth? A performance at a Bach festival in the area where I grew up, the Bach Festival of Winter Park, one of the oldest Bach festivals in North America. (In the Orlando area, Winter Park is the equivalent of North York in Toronto.)

One could say (with only a bit of hyperbole) that my experience at this performance set me on my path as a musician. I continued to study music and the oboe in high school, at university in Louisiana, and in graduate school at the Juilliard School in New York. It was only after I left school that I discovered the period oboe, and I immediately realized that the period instrument field is a direct avenue to performing lots of Bach. Immersing myself in the study of historical performance has also provided me with crucial insights into a foundational understanding of the best way to perform his music.

I feel fortunate to have ended up in Canada and Toronto where music is held in such high regard. Perhaps there will be a youth sitting in the audience at one of our concerts who will be captivated by this remarkable music as I was that day many years ago.


John Abberger is principal oboe for Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and Artistic Director of Toronto Bach Festival. Hear John perform in the third annual Toronto Bach Festival from May 11–13, 2018. For tickets and concert information, visit torontobachfestival.org.

Behind the Musik: Beethoven Pastoral Symphony

Download the Program Notes and Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Allen Whear, violoncello

VIOLIN CONCERTO

The year 1806 was particularly fruitful for Beethoven, when numerous masterpieces including the Fourth Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto, “Rasumovsky” Quartets, and two of the Leonore overtures, were completed. Having already transformed and expanded the symphony, piano concerto, and string quartet, Beethoven finally turned his attention to the violin concerto. Although he had himself played violin and viola in Bonn, and written extensively for them in chamber music, so far he had produced only an unfinished sketch for a violin concerto in C major and the two Romances with orchestra. The occasion for the new work was a benefit concert to be given on December 23 at the Theater an der Wien by and for Franz Clement (1780–1842), a Viennese violinist and leader with whom Beethoven had been friendly for a number of years. Beethoven’s new concerto was completed only two days before the premiere, so Clement must have had formidable sight-reading abilities. Works by many other composers also appeared on the program, and between movements of the concerto Clement treated the audience to a work of his own, played on one string with the violin upside down. You will not hear such fare tonight; authenticity has its limits!

New trends in violin technique and execution were sweeping Europe, particularly from France, where Tourte developed a more powerful bow and players such as Viotti and Kreutzer espoused a robust style. Beethoven was aware of these developments, and his “Kreutzer” Sonata three years earlier embraced this dramatic approach, and even carried the subtitle “in uno stile molto concertante come d’un concerto.” But Clement was not of this avant-garde school of playing. He used the older style bow, and was noted above all for his sweet, singing sound and his flawless command of the upper registers. These lyrical qualities are perhaps what most influenced Beethoven’s violin writing in the concerto.

Standard practice in Beethoven’s time was for performers to improvise or write their own cadenzas. He did not leave one for his Violin Concerto—except for an example found in the piano transcription, involving, oddly enough, timpani—and over the years the most commonly performed cadenzas, written by the likes of Kreisler and Joachim, have become so familiar that many do not realize that they are not part of the original work. In keeping with original practice, Elisa Citterio is providing her own cadenzas.

Four simple timpani strokes launch the concerto, in classical sonata form and on a symphonic scale. Typically of Beethoven’s middle period works, a large pattern is needed to honour and elaborate upon formal traditions while featuring a soloist as well as an orchestra. Indeed, the length of the first movement is unprecedented, roughly equivalent to an entire Mozart concerto. When struck on a dissonant D-sharp by the violins, the four-note motive asserts itself not just as an introduction to the principal theme, but as a key structural element and harmonically transforming device throughout the movement. Although the violin part demands great virtuosity, the overall effect is serenity and lyricism, rather than display.

Strings are muted for the Larghetto, which unfolds like a loosely designed set of variations. As the orchestra patiently reiterates the theme in an array of instrumental colours, the violin hovers and weaves an intricate fantasy above. An abrupt orchestral fanfare followed by a brief cadenza ushers in the finale. The Rondo is based on a jaunty hunting theme that may have come from Clement, in the 6/8 meter favoured by Mozart. Beethoven avoids the danger of repetitiveness by infusing an element of sonata development and a variety of violinistic effects. At the keystone of the rondo form is an interlude in G minor where the violin and bassoon engage in a singing dialogue. In Beethoven’s time, virtuoso violinists most often preferred their own compositions, and his Violin Concerto only received sporadic performances for several decades. It was an acclaimed performance by 13-year old Joseph Joachim with Felix Mendelssohn conducting in London in 1844 that cemented the work’s reputation, and it has maintained its iconic place in the repertoire to this day.

SYMPHONY NO. 6

In the same venue almost exactly two years later, Beethoven presented his own benefit concert, or Akademie, on December 22, 1808, unveiling the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, as well as other works. These sibling symphonies, although written concurrently, show two distinct sides of Beethoven’s character. Before hearing the opening of the Sixth Symphony, remember the dramatic and arresting start to the Fifth: its terse, four-note motto developed throughout the movement, and the work’s symbolic struggle with destiny culminating in glorious victory. Consider the “Pastoral” Symphony the antidote to the drama of the Fifth, and savour the symphony’s opening, the composer’s expression of his love of nature: “Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside.” With soft dynamics, droning fifths in the bass, and simple harmonies, Beethoven invites us to relax from the outset, as if taking us by the hand and sharing his delight. The bucolic atmosphere is further enhanced by the use of constantly repeating melodic and rhythmic patterns instead of motivic development—without ever feeling monotonous—while fulfilling the architectural requirements of sonata form. Beethoven’s avowed intention was “more an expression of feeling than painting,” to distinguish this from program music conjuring specific images and events.

The end of the second movement in Beethoven’s manuscript score of Symphony no. 6, in which he labelled the flute as “Nachtigall” (nightingale), the oboe as “Wachtel” (quail), and the clarinet as “Kuckuck” (cuckoo). The score is in the Beethoven-Haus Bonn (BH64), and can be viewed on their website.

Beethoven’s earliest sketches for the Sixth Symphony included a fragment entitled “Murmuring of the brooks,” depicting flowing water. The muted strings, in lazy triplets, create a foundation of flowing, meandering water while broad melodies unfold in an unhurried manner. Although birdcalls have been implied throughout the movement, there is, near the end, a kind of cadenza where Beethoven specifically imitates the nightingale (flute), the quail (oboe), and the cuckoo (clarinet), all perfectly integrated into the structure. It’s as if Beethoven, despite claiming not to be interested in “painting,” wants to show—perhaps with tongue in cheek—how perfectly he could do it on a whim.

The Scherzo (“Merry gathering of country folk”) is a rustic dance complete with a village band in the trio section. Beethoven seems to poke fun at amateur country musicians: the merry oboe is elbowed out by the clarinet, while the bassoon struggles to play its three bass notes in the right place. Once the horn joins in, all tumble into a heavy contradance, growing ever louder until a trumpet restores order. The whole sequence is repeated until the coda, when ominous rumblings in the bass interrupt the revelry. A storm approaches …

“Storm. Tempest” introduces a raindrop motive in the violins, as the trembling below grows louder and rises chromatically towards F minor. Then full orchestral violence breaks out, augmented by piccolo, trombones, and timpani. Beethoven builds on a longstanding tradition of storm music; he surely found a model in Haydn’s Seasons. The reliable patterns of nature in previous movements are disrupted here with sudden dynamics and the most dissonant harmonies of the symphony. Gradually the storm subsides, as a miraculous musical rainbow emerges from the oboe, a broad tune derived from the initial raindrop motive. The bagpipe drones return, and Alpine yodelling paves the way for “Shepherds’ song: Happy and grateful feelings after the storm.” The leisurely pace of the earlier movements is restored in this serene rondo, until the coda, where the principal theme builds to what the Beethoven scholar Donald Francis Tovey describes as “a grand solemn tutti, glorious as the fields refreshed by the rain.” A muted horn recalls the alpine melody as the movement comes to a gentle close, and we reluctantly return to our urban reality.

© Allen Whear

Beethoven writing to his friend Therese Malfatti in 1810 about his forthcoming holiday in the country:

“I look forward to it with childish excitement. How delighted I shall be to ramble for a while through bushes, woods, under trees, through grass, and around rocks. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.”


PROGRAM LISTING

Bruno Weil guest conductor
Elisa Citterio violin soloist
Jeanne Lamon concertmaster

May 3–6, 2018, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning

Concerto for violin in D Major, op. 61 (1806)
Allegro ma non troppo
Larghetto
Rondo: Allegro

INTERMISSION

Symphony no. 6 in F Major, op. 68, “Pastoral” (1808)
Allegro ma non troppo
Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande
(Awakening of joyous feelings upon arrival in the countryside)
Andante molto moto
Szene am Bach (Scene by the brook)
Allegro
Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute (Merry gathering of country folk)
Allegro
Gewitter. Sturm (Storm. Tempest)
Allegretto
Hitengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm
(Shepherd’s song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm)

 

A special message from Christina Mahler and Alison Mackay

Our upcoming 40th season is a time for celebration, and as with all anniversaries, a chance for reflection, particularly for those orchestra members who have been with us since the beginning.

Christina Mahler, cello, and Alison Mackay, double bass, have recently let us know that they will be retiring from the orchestra after the 2018/19 season.

Both Christina and Alison are performing a number of concerts next season, and there will be lots of time to celebrate each of their tremendous contributions to Tafelmusik, and to wish them well as they embrace this next step in their lives.

Alison’s legacy will also continue in her rich array of multimedia programs that are now part of Tafelmusik’s repertoire. She continues to dream up new ideas, and will share these with Elisa and the orchestra for consideration for future seasons.

Christina and Alison have asked us to share the following personal messages with you, and are very much looking forward to sharing Tafelmusik’s milestone anniversary with you next year.

A MESSAGE FROM CHRISTINA

It was 37 years ago that I moved from Holland to Toronto to play in Tafelmusik. Canada has truly become my home. I would like to thank all of you for your warm welcome and all of my colleagues for a remarkable 37 years of music making.

I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to play in Tafelmusik for all these years. It has been an amazing journey of collaborative chamber music making, which is in my view the highest musical goal.

As instrumentalists, we are very similar to dancers and athletes in terms of the demands our profession puts on our bodies. Even a few years ago, I believed that I would go on playing in Tafelmusik forever. But as those years passed, my visits to the chiropractor and physiotherapist have increased to the point where I realize it is time for me to slow down and plan my retirement from Tafelmusik’s fast-paced schedule. Therefore, next season, Tafelmusik’s fortieth, will be my final year.

Working with Jeanne Lamon for my first 35 years with Tafelmusik has been wonderfully fulfilling. I am also very excited to have the opportunity to work with our warm and inspiring new Music Director, Elisa Citterio. I really look forward to the programs that we will play together before my departure next season.

It is not easy to say goodbye to you, our home audience. Our relationship has been very meaningful and important to me. We have grown together in our understanding of the music we all love. Although this represents the closing of a major chapter in my life, it is not the end of the book. I very much hope to be playing the cello in concerts for a long time to come.

I’m sure that Tafelmusik will find a wonderful principal cellist to replace me. The future is very bright for Tafelmusik and I will always hold the orchestra and the audience very close to my heart.

A MESSAGE FROM ALISON

The 2018/19 season will mark my fortieth year as a member of the Tafelmusik Orchestra, and since I was 26 when I joined, it will be time to bid a fond farewell and pass the job on to one of the gifted bass players of the next generation. It has been the privilege of my life to share the stage with my beloved colleagues, each of whom is a brilliant and brainy virtuoso, and I will be forever grateful to orchestra founders Kenny Solway and Susan Graves for inviting me to join, to Jeanne Lamon for 35 years of inspiring leadership, collaboration, and profound shared experiences, and to Elisa Citterio for her passionate commitment to Tafelmusik and for her warmth as a colleague and friend.

For me, the Tafelmusik musicians, staff, donors and audience members are a family with whom I feel a deep personal connection in our shared love of our organization. The Music Directors and Managing Directors of the orchestra have given me unique opportunities to experiment with the ways in which baroque music is presented in performance, and the players have participated in our special projects with untold hours of extra work and flair on stage beyond my greatest hopes.

Excited about the future of Tafelmusik, I look forward to my final season with zest and then to joining you all in the audience to see what new magic will unfold.


If you wish to send remarks and wishes to Christina or Alison, please forward them to info@tafelmusik.org.