Patrick Jordan has been a violist with Tafelmusik since 1995. He hails from Texas, and is also a member of the Eybler Quartet, based here in Toronto.
How did you come to choose your instrument? Great story here. The Grade 6 orchestra teacher gave all the Grade 5 students a music aptitude test. I’d never had any real music instruction, but did very well (despite consistently mixing up the major and minor modes). We were told that one could choose the violin, viola, or cello for the next year. I had never heard of the viola, so that’s the one I chose!
What was your first music gig?
The first time I received cash for playing was excerpts of Messiah at some church in Lubbock, TX.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
That’s a brutal one. My teacher in Lubbock, TX, Susan Schoenfeld, basically saved my life as an adolescent — she gave me work to do, a home away from home at times, and a carefully considered socialistic outlook on the world. Tick the inspiration box there! Another of my great teachers was Eugene Lehner, who taught me how to relate music emotionally and structurally, but also about why we teach. Tick the inspiration box there! Bruno Weil has been an inspiration. Jeanne Lamon has also been one. So have my Eybler Quartet colleagues Aisslinn Nosky and Julia Wedman. Perhaps the greatest of them all has been my treasured wife, Margaret Gay (also cellist of the Eybler Quartet).
What is your “guilty pleasure” music to listen to? There’s really just music; I think I did all my “guilty” time as a kid growing up on the buckle of the Bible Belt in Texas. What might be unexpected in my listening is Top-40 pop, R&B, and Ravel! My go-to comfort piece, about once a year, is Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel. If you haven’t heard that, do yourself a favour, and devote the 24-26 minutes to a profound experience.
What are the last 3 recordings you’ve listened to? Well, I’m in the middle of editing a new Eybler Quartet CD, so movements 2, 3, and 4 of Beethoven’s Op. 18, no. 6. (Editor’s note: the album is now available.) If you’d like a less navel-gazing answer, I can offer The Seven Last Words of Christ by Haydn, Build a Rocket Boys by Elbow, and Senesce by Nick Storring.
What is your favourite thing to do in Toronto during your free time?
Modesty forbids answering that directly. I do love cooking, however.
What’s your favourite restaurant in Toronto?
See the answer to the previous question — I don’t eat out a lot. Chiado, however, has never disappointed me.
Where is your own, personal, oasis in Toronto?
About 40 cm to the right of my stove, where I do most of my kitchen time.
You have a night off — what do you do?
Between April and September I might go to a baseball game (Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League, or more likely the Toronto Cardinals, my son’s elite-level team); as often as not, cook for a bunch of people!!
What is your great ambition?
To keep working and recording with the Eybler Quartet until the energy or money runs out.
Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?
In many professional fields, I’d be expected to have retired in the next ten years. Playing the viola means I might be able to squeeze another two or three decades out of it.
What words of wisdom would you pass to budding musicians?
Make your own fun. Whatever is being presented to you as “the way to do music” is a tiny slice of the whole picture. Play music that turns your crank, and you’ll almost certainly turn someone else’s!
J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation is a celebration of the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, with an emphasis on the instrumental music which he created for his family, his students, and his colleagues. Using words and images, the performance also honours the artisans and tradespeople whose labor and expertise made the performances of Bach’s music possible, both in his own time and in the 21st century.
The project was born in June of 2014, when the members of Tafelmusik were invited to live in the city of Leipzig for two weeks as orchestra-in-residence at the city’s famous annual Bach Festival. Immersed in the atmosphere of the composer’s hometown, we were able to explore the craft of Bach’s own artisans under the guidance of our generous partners and advisors at the Bach Museum, who have provided many of the images for the project.
Since that time, the orchestra has taken the concert across Canada and the US, and to South Korea and China. Over years of this kind of touring, there is tremendous artistic growth in the performers’ understanding of the music and in a deepening rapport amongst themselves and with the actor on stage. Before we embark on a seven-city tour of Australia this May, we wanted to share with our Toronto audience the version which concertgoers on the other side of the world will experience.
The concert begins and ends with poetry about the honorary patrons of Bach’s city of Leipzig — the Roman god of music, Apollo, and his brother Mercury, who made a glorious musical instrument from the shell of a tortoise and seven strings of sheep gut.
Two millennia later, the instrument makers of the eighteenth century still used materials from the natural world — bird feathers for the quills that pluck harpsichord strings, maple and spruce for the bodies of stringed instruments, and boxwood for oboes. Sheep intestines were still used to create strings for Bach’s instruments, and brass strings were made by hand for his harpsichords.
Centuries-old methods are still used today for the making of historical strings for period instruments. Because the guild members of early modern Europe were obliged to guard their trade secrets, modern makers have had to be detectives, using forensic evidence from scraps of old strings and sources such as Diderot’s eighteenth-century encyclopedia to determine the materials and techniques that would have been used for Bach’s instruments.
The images seen in this concert portray artisans from Bach’s time as well as modern instrument builders who use historical techniques to create instruments for the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Film footage and still photographs created specially for this performance feature Toronto builder and restorer Quentin Playfair, who made a cello inspired by an instrument from the Stradivarius workshop in 1726; English harpsichord and string maker Malcolm Rose; American oboe maker Harry vas Dias; German bassoon maker Peter Wolf; Toronto bow maker Stephen Marvin; and the artisans of the Aquila String factory in Italy.
Much of the music on the program is typical of the works which would have been performed at Zimmerman’s Coffeehouse in the center of Leipzig. In 1695, the merchants’ guild of Leipzig had petitioned the town council for “street lanterns that would, as in Vienna and Berlin, burn all night to prevent incessant nocturnal crime.” On Christmas Eve of 1701, 700 oil-fuelled streetlights were installed in the city, making it safe for the first time for all citizens to walk freely at night, transforming coffeehouses into venues for recreation and music.
Bach directed an ensemble which performed on Friday nights at the cafe for which the owner, Gottfried Zimmerman, acquired a set of musical instruments. The orchestral suites BWV 1066 and 1068, the Third Brandenburg Concerto, the Trio Sonata BWV 1039, the Goldberg Variations, and the shorter solos for harpsichord, violin, or cello are typical of music which Bach would have performed with members of his family, university students, and amateur players of the ensemble known as the Collegium Musicum. Professional players from the Leipzig town band also participated in these performances.
These municipal musicians had responsibilities for outdoor performances from balconies at City Hall or one of the church steeples in town. Gloria laus et honour and Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme are well-known hymn tunes which would have been played instrumentally by these performers. They were given salaries, clothing, music, instruments, and housing for themselves and their families in the Stadtpfeiffer Gässchen (City Pipers’ Lane), which was also the traditional street for the city’s midwives.
In 1746, the Dresden official court painter Elias Gottlob Haussmann painted a portrait of the 61-year-old Bach holding, as was customary, an emblem of his art. Rather than being pictured with a keyboard, the famous virtuoso chose instead to hold a small piece of paper with three short lines of music — the first eight notes of the bass line of the Goldberg Variations with a six-part canon written in code. It was a powerful symbol of Bach’s roles as composer, performer, and teacher. Like the instrument makers who made his violins and harpsichords, Bach regarded himself as a craftsman who had inherited much from the guild musicians who were his forebears.
The concert ends with a reflection on human hands and the thousands of hours it takes to master the use of a violin bow or a chisel. In the long hours of labour, musicians, and artisans are sustained by the beauty of materials, the artistry of their tools, the guidance of inspiring mentors, and the exhilaration of exploring
the art of a great genius. We share with our audiences around the world an abiding love for the music of J.S. Bach, and it is a privilege to be able to perform it in celebration of his art and in recognition of the artisans, scholars, tradespeople, and music lovers who have made our own performing lives possible.
The Banff Centre for its generous support of film editing for the project. Film editor Jane MacRae and Alison Mackay were able to work at Banff as recipients of Paul D. Fleck fellowships.
Ivars Taurins for his beautiful rendering in calligraphy of the bass line of the Goldberg Variations.
Quentin Playfair and Sue Dickin for the creation and photography of a new cello commissioned by cellist Sandra Bohn.
Jean-Marc St. Pierre of maj productions in Montreal for permission to use his footage of the Aquila factory. We also warmly thank Paul Lewis, and Elizabeth Brown of the Discovery Channel, and Tafelmusik Board of Directors member Trina McQueen for facilitating our use of this footage.
Timothy Barrett, Director of the Iowa Centre of the Book, and filmmaker Avi Michael, creator of the film Chancery Papermaking, for the footage of paper being made as in the time of Bach.
Dr. Daniel Geiger, Microscopist and Curator of Malacology at the Museum of Natural History, Santa Monica, California for his stunning magnified images of materials from Bach’s world.
The Bach Museum, Leipzig for facilitating photography at the museum and permission to use images from the collection.
Production designer Glenn Davidson for creating the photo sequences of hands and Saxon sheep.
Conceived, programmed, and scripted by Alison Mackay
Directed by Elisa Citterio Blair WilliamsNarrator Marshall Pynkoski Stage Director Glenn DavidsonProduction Designer Raha JavanfarProjections Designer Jane MacraeFilm Editor
March 14–18, 2018, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Sinfonia to Cantata 249a
Sonata for 3 violins in C Major, after BWV 1005: I. Adagio
Orchestral suite no. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: Ouverture
Chorale tune “Gloria laus et honor”
Orchestral suite no. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: Bourrée & Forlane
Sinfonia in G Minor, BWV 797, for solo harpsichord
Prelude in C Major, BWV 933, for solo harpsichord
Suite no. 3 for violoncello in C Major, BWV 1009: Sarabande
Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048: I. Allegro
With Handel Alexander’s Feast just around the corner (Feb 22-25 at Koerner Hall), we’re looking back at poster designs created at the top of the season. As always, our multi-talented Choir director Ivars Taurins provided some inspirational art to help guide the design process, and we’re happy to share them with you!
The Family of Darius before Alexander – Paolo Veronese
The Family of Darius before Alexander is a 1565–1570 oil on canvas painting. It depicts Alexander the Great with the family of Darius III, the Persian king he had defeated in battle. Although Veronese had previously painted a version of the subject, since destroyed, the theme had rarely been depicted by other artists before him. The painting has been in the collection of the National Gallery in London since 1857. Interestingly, the splendid wardrobe is that of the Venice in which Veronese lived, rather than ancient Greece or the Far East.
Alexander entering Babylon, or The Triumph of Alexander – Charles Le Brun
Charles Le Brun needed to find a style with the appropriate blend of gravity and solemnity. It was also necessary to maintain the legibility crucial to a work with so many figures, while conveying the diversity of the temples, vases, weapons, musical instruments, and costumes that make the scene immediately recognizable. An allusion to the grandeur of the reign of Louis XIV – who was also a great conqueror and powerful monarch – is evident, the political position clearly stated. Later reproduced as a tapestry, the painting was part of the collections of Louis XIV. From the Royal Collections, the work entered the Muséum Central des Arts, which would later become the Louvre.
Les reines de Perse aux pieds d’Alexandre dit aussi la tente de Darius – Charles Le Brun
This painting was probably completed at the end of the year 1660. It shows the mother of Darius throwing herself at the feet of the king of Macedonia, to implore clemency for his imprisoned family.
And hey – why not grab the throw pillow version of the painting?
And so – the final product from Sovereign State (note the baroque frame around the imagery)! This final image used the figure of Alexander from the final Le Brun painting, as well as opulent fruits, silhouettes of baroque instruments, and a baroque platter silhouette!
Performances of odes on November 22, the feast day of the patron saint of music, St. Cecilia, were a regular feature of the concert season in London at the end of the seventeenth century. John Dryden’s ode, Alexander’s Feast, or the Power of Musick, was written for the occasion in 1697, set to music (now lost) by Jeremiah Clarke. From 1700 the tradition died out, but composers continued to write settings of St. Cecilia odes as concert works. Handel composed two such odes, the first being Alexander’s Feast in 1736. (The second, From Harmony, from heavenly Harmony, followed three years later). The premiere of Alexander’s Feast took place at Covent Garden on February 19, a few short weeks after Handel completed the score. Dryden’s text was adapted by Handel’s friend, the Irish playwright Newburgh Hamilton, who “took care not to take any unwarrantable liberties” with Dryden’s original.
The audience at the premiere numbered 1,300, and it was so well received than an additional eight performances were given. Handel remounted it again the following season:
Last Night Mr. Dryden’s Ode, call’d Alexander’s Feast, was performed at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, to a splendid Audience, where his Royal Highness the Prince and Princess of Wales were present, and seem’d to be highly entertain’d, insomuch that his Royal Highness commanded Mr. Handel’s Concerto on the Organ to be repeated.
[A London newspaper account, March 17, 1737]
The libretto describes a banquet held by Alexander the Great and his mistress Thaïs in the captured city of Persepolis. The musician Timotheus sings and plays his lyre, inciting various emotions in Alexander until he is roused to burn the city in revenge for his fallen soldiers. Cecilia arrives to turn the barbarity to a more uplifting end through her “loftier” music.
The aim of St. Cecilia odes is to celebrate music, and it is evident here in the range of orchestrations in the airs and choruses, and by the inclusion of two concertos — one for harp, representing Timotheus’ lyre, and one for organ, representing “the divine Cecilia.”
The baroque triple harp was one answer to accommodate the expanding musical language that was emerging at the turn of the seventeenth century. Finding a way to make the harp a continuo instrument, capable of playing a figured bass line with accompanying chords in any key, was the main driver behind the drastic changes seen in the harps of this time.
The triple harp, first seen in Italy, flourished from approximately 1590 to 1750 and was so popular that it spread all over Europe.
It has an ingenious way of having all notes in all keys available at all times: It has three parallel rows of strings. The outer two rows are tuned to the same diatonic scale (think of the white keys on the piano), with the inner row tuned to the chromatic notes (the equivalent of the black keys on the piano). To make chords, you play a combination of some fingers on the outer rows and some fingers on the inner row, making 3-D shapes with your fingers.
This ability to play in all possible keys was a huge improvement over previous harps which, having one row of strings and no way to quickly and reliably alter the pitch of the strings, could only play in one or two keys at a time and had to be re-tuned either during or in between pieces to accommodate key changes.
Of course, having three parallel rows of strings makes the triple harp very difficult to play. Not many harpists enjoy tuning all 93 strings every day either! Perhaps that is why I am one of only two professional triple harpists in all of Canada. The glorious sound of the triple harp, zingy like the harpsichord and simultaneously bell-like, more than makes up for any hardships.
Considered old-fashioned by Handel’s time, he nevertheless loved the sound of the triple harp too. He used it in Esther, Saul, Giulio Cesare, and he wrote a harp concerto for Alexander’s Feast. Today, the Italian triple harp has settled firmly in to the Welsh culture, where its descendant flourishes as their national instrument.
My baroque violin was made in 1694 in Amsterdam by Hendrik Jacobs. It is on permanent loan to me from violist Max Mandel, principal violist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, frequent guest with Tafelmusik, and my former partner and current dear friend.
This beautiful instrument was bought for Max when he was in high school. Max was a talented and serious musician from a young age, and his parents quickly realized he needed a professional quality instrument to play. They all fell in love with the sound of the Jacobs when Max tried it out at the shop of former Tafelmusik violinist Jack Liivoja, and Max played it throughout his teens and early twenties. When Max was a student at the University of Toronto, he switched to viola, and then moved to New York. It was at this time that the violin came into my hands. Max was broke (paying for tuition at Juilliard and rent in NY) and needed to sell the violin. It went back to the shop, but no one wanted it — everyone complained that it was too quiet. When I came home from studying baroque violin at Indiana University, I had the idea that maybe we would have more luck selling Max’s instrument as a baroque violin. We brought it home from the shop, I put gut strings on it, tuned it down a semi-tone from modern pitch (A=440) to baroque pitch (A=415), played a few notes, and proclaimed, “We can’t sell this violin!!! It is too good! I need to play it!”
The Jacobs loves being tuned to the low pitches — when it is tuned to A=415 or lower, the voice of this violin is free, warm, dark, and gorgeously rich. There is an intimacy in the quality of sound that I absolutely love and have rarely found in other instruments. The Jacobs can express a kind of emotional vulnerability that connects with people on a very deep level, and I am so grateful for the closeness my audiences feel with me. When I hear other people play it, I am always surprised by how soft it sounds, but its “limitations” demanded that I learn to use my bow in a different way — I have to use the instrument’s natural resonance with focus and strength to project the sound.
One fateful day — a blustery March evening of my second year in Tafelmusik — I was walking home after a concert, and as I turned the corner to my street, there was a big patch of black ice. I slipped and fell backwards, onto my violin case, which I had been carrying like a backpack. Ow!!! I dusted myself off, went inside, and took a hot bath to ease the pain. The next morning, I took out my violin to practice. I opened the case and to my shock and horror, the sound post (the little post inside the violin) had smashed through the top of the instrument! It looked so bizarre, I immediately closed the case and started walking around in circles, saying, “That doesn’t look right!” Finally, I worked up the courage to open the case again, and this time, I had to face the truth that I had broken Max’s beautiful violin. Choking back tears, I called our luthier, “Saint” Quentin Playfair, and explained the situation. He told me to gather every little shard of wood in a clear plastic bag, and bring it to him immediately! It took Quentin about six weeks to do a complete restoration. Miraculously, he was able to fix it so exquisitely that I can’t tell where the cracks are, and it sounds better than ever!
JACOB VAN EYCK We open the concerts with a set of variations for solo recorder by the early seventeenth century Dutch carillonneur and recorder player Jacob van Eyck. He was carillonneur of the Domkerk, Janiskerk, Jacobikerk, and city hall in Utrecht, and director of the city’s bellworks, spearheading refinements in the casting and tuning of bells. In 1649, the sixty-year old van Eyck was offered a salary raise “provided that he would now and then in the evening entertain the people strolling in the churchyard with the sound of his little flute.” That same year he published two volumes of variations on popular tunes for solo recorder, named Der Fluyten Lust-Hof (The Flute’s Garden of Delights), presumably drawn from what he played in the churchyard.
ANTONIO VIVALDI The Four Seasons appeared in Vivaldi’s 1725 publication of twelve violin concertos entitled Il Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (Bold Experiments with Harmony and Invention). The Seasons, full of audacious experiments of every kind, were undoubtedly the inspiration for the title. The four concertos are accompanied by four sonnets, giving detailed descriptions of the programmatic elements of the music, which paint a vivid picture of life in the Italian countryside in the eighteenth century. The concertos are dazzling proof of Vivaldi’s skill as a violinist and his ingenuity and inventiveness as a composer. We offer a respite from winter this week with Vivaldi’s wonderful depiction of spring, and encourage you to follow the text of the sonnet below.
Guint’è la primavera e festosetti La salutan gl’augei con lieto canto, E i fonti allo spirar de’ zeffiretti Con dolce mormorio scorrono intanto.
Vengon’ coprendo l’aer di nero amanto E lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti; Indi tacendo questi, gl’augellitti Tornan’ di nuovo al lor canoro incanto.
E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato Al caro mormorio di fronde e piante Dorme ’l caprar col fido can’ à lato. Di pastoral zampogna al suon festante Danzan ninfe e pastor nel tetto amato Di primavera all’apparir brillante.
Spring has come, and joyfully the birds welcome it with cheerful song, and the streams at the breath of zephyrs, flow swiftly with sweet murmurings.
But now the sky is cloaked in black, and lightning and thunder announce themselves; when they are silenced, the little birds return to fill the air with their sweet song.
Then on the pleasant flower-strewn meadow, to the gentle rustle of the leaves and branches, the goatherd rests, his faithful dog at his side. To the rustic bagpipe’s festive sound, nymphs and shepherds dance beneath the fair spring sky in all its glory
GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN
Another prolific composer of baroque instrumental concertos was Georg Philipp Telemann. Telemann stated that he was not a fan of the purely virtuoso solo concerto, and indeed we find that most of his concertos are more “conversational” than “exhibitionist,” and that many feature more than one solo instrument. We feature two of these this week: a Concerto for recorder and bassoon, and a Concerto for 3 violins.
Telemann was an accomplished player of wind instruments, and his writing for winds is wonderfully idiomatic — well crafted and satisfying to play. The dialogue between the recorder and bassoon in the F-Major Concerto is by turns lyrical and playful. Winds are also prominent in the Quartet in G Major, which features the same instruments as the Vivaldi Concerto da camera.
The Concerto for 3 violins appears in the second volume of Telemann’s famous publication titled Musique de table, or Tafelmusik (from which we draw our name!). The title refers to the custom of entertaining guests at ceremonial meals and banquets with music. Each of the three volumes includes an orchestral suite, a concerto for multiple instruments, and a selection of chamber music. The publication was sold on subscription, and the list of subscribers is impressive, including composers, musicians, statesmen, and nobility from all over Europe.
Telemann chooses a different orchestration for each piece in the collection, and explores different styles. The Italianate Concerto for 3 violins shows the clear influence of Vivaldi. All of the music in the three volumes is full of charm, wit, and vivacity, and is designed, ultimately, to entertain.