Every once in a while, there is a piece of music that has a specific connection to something in one’s life. That is the case for me and the Haydn C-Major Cello Concerto. Our younger daughter, Madeleine, went through a period of a few weeks shortly after she was born during which she would wake at 1:00 am in great distress. She wasn’t hungry or suffering from colic, nor did diapers need changing. She simply needed to cry. She’d had a difficult birth, and my theory was that she somehow needed to work that out, and this was her chosen hour. The rest of the day and night she was quite happy.
Unfortunately this period coincided with a Tafelmusik tour — I was at home with my newborn and her five-year-old sister, but my husband Ivars [Tafelmusik Choir Director Ivars Taurins, formerly violist in the orchestra] was in Germany with the orchestra. Needless to say, those 1:00 am wake-up calls quickly became as distressing for me as for my daughters. To the rescue came a guardian angel in the form of my mother, the girls’ much-loved Nana. A firm believer in the power of the rocking chair, she took over the middle-of-the-night shifts, firmly holding and rocking Madeleine. She determined that music might help, and I’m not sure why, but she turned to Tafelmusik’s recording of the Haydn cello concertos, with Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma.
Perhaps it was simply on top of the CD pile, as it had just been released some months before. Perhaps she was drawn to it because she had enjoyed the company and conversation of Anner on tours (mom had come along as nanny when our older daughter was a baby and toddler, and a couple of the European tours featured Anner as soloist). In any case, it worked. The C-Major Concerto is the first piece on the recording, and something about it calmed baby Madeleine, so we played it every night. I came to think of it as her midnight story, and at that tender age, what better than music to tell a tale, assuring her (and us) that all is well. Haydn is a masterful storyteller, as is Anner (both in life and in music) – and it all fit.
I haven’t heard the concerto since that time, now 25 years ago, and I’m looking forward to hearing Christophe Coin play it at our October concerts. Madeleine is living in New York City, otherwise I’d bring her along. Perhaps I’ll send her the recording. She would probably find it oddly soothing, and wouldn’t know quite why.
Christophe Coin performs Haydn’s C Major Cello Concerto at The Eloquent Cello October 5-9 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.
Two of Bach’s official posts required him to compose and perform a great deal of instrumental music: that of Capellmeister to Prince Leopold of Cöthen (1717–1723), and that of Director of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig (1729–1741). Unfortunately, much of the music Bach wrote for these posts is thought to have been lost. Many works, including the four orchestral suites, have survived only in the form of copies by Bach’s friends or colleagues. The last suite is the grandest of the four, scored for three oboes, bassoon, three trumpets, timpani, strings, and continuo. In its original version, probably written at Cöthen but no longer extant, it did not employ trumpets and timpani. Bach used the overture, with the addition of trumpets, timpani, and choir, as the opening chorus of Cantata 110, “Unser Mund sei voll Lachens,” written for a Christmas service in Leipzig in 1725. A few years later, he turned to the work again, creating the suite as we now know it, presumably for performance at the Collegium Musicum. For this version he retained the trumpet and timpani parts of the chorus, with slight alterations, and re-worked the original dance movements to include the brass.
Rameau Dances from Les Indes Galantes
Jean-Philippe Rameau astonished the Parisian public in 1733 when, at the age of 50, he presented his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie. André Campra, Lully’s successor at the Paris opera, said of the first performance, “My Lord, there is enough music in this opera to make ten of them; this man will eclipse us all.” For his second foray into stage music two years later, Rameau turned to the form made popular by Campra, the opéra-ballet. The convoluted plots of the grand mythological tragedies are replaced in the opéra-ballet by a loosely structured series of tableaux linked by a general theme. The thread that links the four acts of Rameau’s first opéra-ballet, Les Indes galantes, is the eighteenth-century notion of the exotic. Each act presents a tale of love and intrigue in a distant land, the Indies in this case represented by Turkey, Peru, Persia, and North America. The whole is preceded by a prologue extolling the universal power of love. The work was enormously popular, and between 1735 and 1773 it was performed no fewer than 320 times at the Royal Academy of Music in Paris.
In the complete opera there are some 90 minutes of instrumental music, of which we offer a very brief sampling. The opera ends in the forests of North America, with “les sauvages” dancing the ceremony of the Grand Calumet de la Paix (Peace Pipe), and all joining in a final Chaconne. To this we add a lively Tambourin danced by sailors from the Turkish entrée.
Handel Water Music
At about eight in the evening the King repaired to his barge. Next to the King’s barge was that of the musicians, about 50 in number, who played on all kinds of instruments, to wit trumpets, horns, hautboys [oboes], bassoon, German flutes [transverse flutes], French flutes [recorders], violins, and basses; but there were no singers. The music had been composed specially by the famous Handel, a native of Halle, and His Majesty’s principal court composer. His Majesty approved of it so greatly that he caused it to be played three times in all, although each performance lasted an hour — namely; twice before and once after supper. The [weather in the] evening was all that could be desired for the festivity, and the number of barges and above all of boats filled with people wanting to listen was beyond counting.
It was on the occasion of the royal river excursion of July 17, 1717, described above by the Brandenburg Resident in London, Friedrich Bonet, that Handel’s “Celebrated Water Music” was first performed. River parties were regular occurrences during the summer season in eighteenth-century London, and royal excursions were important social occasions. The 1717 event was apparently the grandest, and possibly the last, of King George I’s water parties. A contemporary newspaper account reported that there were so many boats, filled with “persons of quality,” that “the whole river in a manner was cover’d.” The barges floated up the river from Whitehall to Chelsea, riding the tide. The King and his party were served dinner at Chelsea at one o’clock in the morning, returning to St. James’s Palace at half-past four.
Handel’s reputation, both with the royal family and the more general public, was served well by his contribution to the “royal cruise.” Movements from the so-called Water Music appeared in various publications for several decades, and concert performances were very popular. Throughout the work the wind and brass instruments, so well suited for outdoor use, figure prominently. This week we are performing the entire Water Music, in an arrangement of movements as may have been used in eighteenth-century concert versions.
SNAPSHOT OF 1717: THE YEAR OF WATER MUSIC
MUSIC George I hosts a royal river party on the Thames on July 17, for which George Frideric Handel composes Water Music.
Johann Sebastian Bach is appointed Capellmeister to Prince Leopold in Cöthen.
Jean-Philippe Rameau(left) is organist at the cathedral in Clermont-Ferrand (1715–1722), and composes the grand motet “In convertendo Dominum” for ceremonies celebrating the installation of the new bishop of Clermont, Jean-Baptiste Massillon. (Hear Tafelmusik perform this motet Nov 2–6 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.)
ART & LITERATURE
Jean-Antoine Watteau paints Les plaisirs du bal(left).
François-Maire Arouet is imprisoned in the Bastille for eleven months for having written a verse that satirized the Regent of France. He leaves prison with the completed text of his first play, and the pseudonym Voltaire.
The first English translation in 100 years of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is published by Samuel Garth, with translations by Dryden, Pope, Addison, Tate, Gay, Congreve, and others. It remains the standard English translation for some 200 years.
HISTORY The first known Druid revival ceremony is held on the Autumnal equinox at Primrose Hill in London.
Crews on ships commanded by Benjamin Hornigold and Edward Teach capture the British-built Concorde in the Carribean. Hornigold accepts a British amnesty for all pirates, but Teach rejects it and becomes knows as Blackbeard(left). He captures several ships and sails north to the North American coast.
With the (still-humid) September air, the words ‘Season Opener’ seem to be everywhere in Toronto’s cultural scene.
We’re adding an extra word – ‘Festive Season Opener,’ because there’s no better description for Handel’s perennial favourite, Water Music. This classic was so popular at the time of its original performance, it was reportedly requested by King George that the musicians play it three times – all in the same night!
It would have truly been a sight to see all the musicians on a royal barge, partying on the River Thames in 1717. Fortunately, the Academy of Ancient Music recreated just such an event, as part of Her Majesty The Queen’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012. Take a look in the video below!
Next time, we’re going to need to do this along Toronto’s waterfront on Lake Ontario. What do you think?
At Tafelmusik, we not only strive for excellence onstage but also off. Managing Director, William Norris, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing and Sales, Rejean Tremblay, and Bobblehead Bach had the opportunity to attend the 2016 AMA conference (Arts Marketing Association) in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Our Tafelmusik delegates, along with over 650 arts, culture and heritage professionals (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, National Dance Company Wales), were delighted to be part of a series of presentations and discussions focusing on how arts organizations can stay relevant to their audiences in 2016.
Tafelmusik is committed to maintaining a deep and meaningful connection with our amazing audiences. In our quest to stay relevant locally and internationally, we are in constant discussion about how to reach new audiences in order to keep with the rapidly changing times. In this process of “staying relevant”, we are, of course, also committed to offering the unique and compelling experience that has always been at the core of what we do.
As we process all that we learned from the conference, we wanted to share a few photos of the great sights our delegates got to see during their stay in Edinburgh!
With sadness (for us) and optimism (for her), I’m writing to say farewell to Aisslinn Nosky, who resigned from Tafelmusik at the end of this season. When Aisslinn joined Tafelmusik in 2005, our audience at home and abroad responded enthusiastically to her exciting and dramatic playing — I recall mob scenes in Seoul and Culiacán, Mexico! Her virtuosic musicality has raised the bar for the last ten years on our stage, and we will miss her immensely. Aisslinn’s dedication to all aspects of our performing life will be irreplaceable — who else will go on tour with a shark costume in their suitcase, for example, or organize our annual musicians’
intermission reception at the Sing-Along Messiah?
Many of you know that Aisslinn was appointed concertmaster of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston in 2011, and that we have been sharing her with them ever since. Aisslinn’s tremendous talent as a violinist and leader has caught the musical world’s attention, and she is increasingly in demand as a guest soloist and director. Sadly for us, this means that she has decided that she can no longer commit to Tafelmusik’s busy full-time schedule. Before any panic or riots break out, let me assure you that Aisslinn will still be based here in Toronto, which means that she will be seen on the Tafelmusik stage as often as possible. Additionally, you can see her perform with her other local groups, the Eybler Quartet and I Furiosi. Here are some words from Aisslinn:
“Tafelmusik will always be a part of my musical heart. Serving for ten years in the core of this unique group is one of the things I am most proud of in my career. My membership in the group has formed who I am as an artist and as a person. I could never completely say goodbye to people who mean so much to me and I now happily take on a different role in the larger Tafelmusik family.”
Like the Hotel California, we are allowing Aisslinn to check out, but not to leave. I estimate that Aisslinn has played over 1,000 concerts with Tafelmusik over the last ten years — and can tell you that when you play that many concerts with someone, you know them in a way that is a lot like family — intimate, complex, and impossible to fully describe in words. We will miss her, but know that our musical paths will continue to cross for many years to come.
Luminato Festival CEO Anthony Sargent took time out of his busy schedule to do a Q and A by email with Tafelmusik Managing Director William Norris.
William Norris: What are three things about Toronto that make you want to live here?
Anthony Sargent: Though in some ways it’s a quintessentially modern urban environment, I love the endless green of Toronto – with over 1,500 parks in all conceivable shapes and sizes. I also love living in a city boasting such a teemingly plural cultural mix – a happily shared, friendly home to so many different people from so many different backgrounds. I’m also dazzled by Toronto’s range of arts and cultural activities and organizations – I could very easily be out 3 times every night of the year!
WN: Name one thing Toronto can learn from Britain.
AS: You can’t be a born Brit and not value British pragmatism just a little bit! I’ve been intrigued how much some things agitate my new friends and neighbours – things which don’t get as far as raising my blood pressure even by 1%!
WN: Name one thing Britain can learn from Toronto.
AS: Everything in life, everything, becomes easier and more pleasant, even the most irritating and frustrating things, if handled with patience and courtesy, kindness and charm!
WN: Luminato is a world-renowned event. How do you intend to take it to the next level?
AS: The core will remain (as at our birth in 2007) bringing the world’s most exciting artists to Toronto, commissioning and presenting new work (the essential lifeblood of the arts), offering a platform to the most exciting Canadian artists, and as far as possible seeking to do the things other people are not doing, so coming to Luminato is always an adventure. I think our Hearn residency alone ticks that last box! Beyond that I want Luminato and the work it does to win more international recognition for Toronto and Canada; I want Luminato to contribute in the most active city-building ways to our home city, and I want June to be a month in the calendars of everyone curious about where the arts are going next when they focus on what we are doing in and for the city of Toronto.
AS: As a leader I’m obsessed with the importance of reacting to all the inevitable things in life that don’t go as planned as precious learning opportunities, not as a hook to which to attach blame or reproach. Every day of my 15 years in Gateshead I lived by that creed, and I am determined to develop that culture wherever I work, here and in the future.
WN: Sage Gateshead is a music venue and education centre. What challenges have you faced now working with an unfinished/abandoned venue space that will stage a variety of art practices?
AS: Artistic Director Jörn Weisbrodt has defined his artistic credo as ‘adventurous arts and ideas in adventurous places,’ remembering that where people have a creative or cultural experience can be as important as the experience itself. I’m enormously excited (as the festival is just opening) to see how it feels to experience Bach, Beethoven and 15thC Scottish history in the funky majesty of a colossal, ruined and abandoned 1950s industrial cathedral, expecting it to feel fresh in a very special way. Some things are harder in the Hearn, a few are impossible, but much is incredibly exciting – even if not without risk!
WN: We’re excited to return to Luminato this year. How do you see groups like Tafelmusik in your plans for Luminato in the upcoming years?
AS: Our new Artistic Director has only been here for 3 days so a detailed answer is a bit premature, but I am very keen that we combine two things in Luminato – being a showcase and a platform for the most exciting creative talents in Toronto and throughout Canada (in proportions appropriate to a global arts festival), while always encouraging those creative talents to see Luminato as a unique partner and an opportunity to do something new, different, startling. Simply recycling their normal programming within Luminato would make no sense for any of us.
WN: The festival starts with Unsound Toronto. Its mix of dance, trance, electronic, metal, and ambient music could be seen as far removed from the music of Tafelmusik. What would you say to an Unsound attender to persuade them to try the Tafelmusik concert (and indeed, vice versa)?
AS: Meals that begin with highly spiced starters and sturdy main courses are often most perfectly complemented by a glacially pure, seraphically simple sorbet. We’re living in an exciting age now when many people are much more catholic and inclusive in their interests, in all the arts, and in previous jobs some of the biggest programming mistakes I have made have been to underestimate people’s curiosity and to assume they only like one thing. However much you enjoy sea trout, imagine eating nothing else for the rest of your days! Every now and then you’ll be dying for a Boeuf en Croûte or a Scotch Egg!
WN: People are more used to seeing Tafelmusik in more conventional venues like Koerner Hall and Trinity St Paul’s. What can they expect from the surroundings of the Hearn, and what else will there be for them to do and see on the day?
AS: Of course the wonderful Tafelmusik programme on Sunday 19th sits between #2 and #3 of the 3 magnificent James Plays (9 hours of a searingly dramatic 21stC view of 15th Scottish History from the National Theatre of Scotland), so people could enjoy those as a contrasting frame for Bach! Also there is the Trove exhibition (a portrait of Toronto in 50 objects), the AGO’s amazing concrete + living bees sculpture by Pierre Huyghe outside in the adjacent wilderness, a range of installations by other Toronto artists and arts groups – and a German Biergarten with wonderful view of downtown Toronto.
WN: Where do you see Luminato in the next 10 years?
AS: The completion of our first decade has seen Luminato come of age, and our 10th birthday Hearn residency affirms our intention each year to do things, or inhabit spaces, that are as startling as they are exciting. After our next ten teenage years I want Luminato to have become a more essential and unmissable calendar highlight for everyone living in our city, while arts lovers around the world connect Toronto immediately and instinctively with a teemingly exciting arts festival, as they already do our longer established cousins in Edinburgh, Sydney and Hong Kong, and the international film world does of the wonderful 40-year-old TIFF.
Tickets are only $25 for our relaxed and laid-back performance at the Hearn Generating Station June 19th at 7:20pm – click here for tickets.
As a co-worker and I walked east, we reached Cherry Street and went south. This is an area I think few people visit, and it was exciting to see a different view of the city from the old port lands. After a few wrong turns and meeting some of the local wildlife, we made it to Unwin Ave. Looming ahead of us, like something out of Lord of the Rings, was an illuminated tower, marking the Hearn.
At the entrance, we were told ‘Don’t Look Back’, as if to give us confidence that yes, we were in the right spot, and yes, we would enjoy what was inside. And we weren’t disappointed.
From the mood lighting to the various art installations (how about a huge disco ball? Why not?), we were sucked into another world. A world that Tafelmusik will be entering June 19, performing on the music stage in the heart of this cavernous treasure. It is so incredible to think that our special and supremely talented orchestra will be presenting such beautiful baroque music in this industrialized, once-abandoned setting. This type of event is what is making Toronto such an exciting place to be.
You’ll have to see it (and hear it) to believe it.
Tim Crouch Marketing Manager
Tickets for Tafelmusik at Luminato June 19 at 7:20pm are just $25 and are available here.