My Instrument with Dominic Teresi, bassoonist

In our upcoming 2018/19 season opening concert, Mozart 40, Dominic Teresi will be featured as soloist, performing Mozart’s Concerto for bassoon in B-flat Major.

Dominic Teresi with his bassoon. Photo by Sian Richards.By Dominic Teresi, bassoon

As a wind player in Tafelmusik, I need to own several instruments that I switch between depending on the period or style of music and the pitch required for each concert. I currently own nine different types of bassoons, six of which I play regularly in Tafelmusik. They are all modern copies of original instruments from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, since woodwinds do not stand up to the tests of time as well as do stringed instruments. Over the centuries, exposure to moisture, fluctuations of temperature and humidity, as well as insect damage have all tended to damage the wood of most surviving baroque woodwinds, rendering them unplayable today.

The bassoon I play most frequently in Tafelmusik is a copy of an instrument by Johannes Scherer from the early eighteenth century. Scherer lived in central Germany, more or less contemporaneously with Johann Sebastian Bach, and his bassoon is especially well suited to the works of Bach, Handel, and Telemann. My bassoon was made by the Wolf family from Kronach, Germany in 2014. I have a very close relationship with the Wolfs and own several of their instruments. Father and founder, Guntram, passed away in 2013 and the business is now run by his children, Peter and Claudia.

On our opening program, Mozart 40, in September, I am performing Mozart’s bassoon concerto on an instrument copied after an original by Heinrich Grenser from around 1800 and made by Guntram Wolf in 2011. This is I think the fourth classical bassoon I have played in Tafelmusik, and it was a bit of an unexpected acquisition. In August 2011 during Tafelmusik’s annual residence at the Klang und Raum Festival in Irsee, I visited the Wolf workshop to have my bassoons worked on and they happened to have a few finished classical bassoons ready that were not already spoken for, which is a rare occurrence. I of course had to try them all out and was immediately attracted to one particular instrument with an especially beautiful flame in the grain of its wood. It turned out to also have a incredibly rich sound, and I decided I couldn’t leave without it. I once had the opportunity to play the original Grenser that mine is copied after, which is owned by a colleague in Austria, and can verify that mine is a very true replica that feels and sounds very much like the original. This is the bassoon I play for Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven — and have even used it when we’ve played early romantic composers such as Schubert and Mendelssohn.

For the very earliest repertoire Tafelmusik plays, such as the seventeenth-century Italian composers that you will hear on our February program, The Tempestuous Violin, with Enrico Onofri, I have two bass dulcians copied after an original in the Sammlung Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, one pitched at A=440 (standard ‘modern’ pitch) and one at A=465 (a half-step higher). These were both made by the German maker Martin Praetorius, who has a wonderfully appropriate name for a historical woodwind builder (although he assures me he has no relation to Michael Praetorius, the famous seventeenth-century composer and theorist). Martin is an exceptionally skilled craftsman and is able to replicate very closely the dimensions of the original instruments he copies. Whereas many copies by other makers feel bulky and awkward to hold and play, mine are light and agile and feel very comfortable in the hands, yet have a very rich and resonant sound.

You can hear me play the newest bassoon in my collection on our Vivaldi program in October, which will also become our first recording with Elisa at the helm. This instrument is a copy of an anonymous early eighteenth-century bassoon from Sud Tyrol made by Peter Wolf. It is pitched at A=440, which was the standard pitch in Venice during Vivaldi’s time. It has a very clear, bright, and direct sound and very agile response, which makes it an especially fun instrument for playing Vivaldi. It is still fairly new to me but I’m very much looking forward to getting to know it better and to play it for you all on the Tafelmusik stage.

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Behind the Musik: Mozart 40

Download the Program Notes and Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

Mozart 40

Salzburg 1774/75

Mozart’s childhood travels had left him with a hunger for making his mark in more cosmopolitan circles than offered in his native city of Salzburg. His father’s ambitions for him played no small part in this. We therefore tend to associate his time in Salzburg with a general discontentment, but some of this association is arguably misplaced. He formally entered the employment of the Archbishop of Salzburg, Count Colloredo, in 1773, at the age of seventeen. He was appointed Konzertmeister, and the post allowed him time and space to hone his craft as a composer. The next few years saw an outpouring of compositions, including a range of chamber and orchestral works. His first “mature” symphonies date from this time (including the first of the two G-Minor symphonies, no. 25, which we will be performing later this season [The Hunt: Mozart and Haydn, April 25–30, 2019]). His very first piano concertos appeared, as did his first concerto for a wind instrument, the delightful Concerto for bassoon in B-flat Major, presumed to have been written for one of the bassoonists at the Salzburg court. Many have noted that the young Mozart perfectly captured the instrument’s inherent qualities, an early example of his tremendous skill at writing for winds as witnessed in his later symphonies and operas.

All five of Mozart’s violin concertos were written in Salzburg in a six-month period in 1775. He undoubtedly would have performed them himself (he was an accomplished violinist, and leader of the orchestra), though in what context is not known: possibly at church, possibly at informal public events. In the concertos he eschews the pyrotechnics championed by many violinists at the time in favour of a more natural, elegant, and often witty style. After hearing a performance of a violin concerto by Ignaz Fränz, Mozart wrote to his father, “I like his playing very much. You  know I am no great lover of difficulties. He plays difficult things, but his listeners are not aware that they are difficult; they think that they could at once do the same themselves. That is real playing.”

The cadenzas performed by Elisa Citterio in this program have been written by her brother, the composer Carlo Citterio.

We precede the concerto performances with a short Symphony written at the same time. The first two movements formed the Overture to the Italian comic opera La finta giardiniera, commissioned for the Munich Opera and premiered in January 1775. Shortly after returning to Salzburg, Mozart added a Finale to create a stand-alone work, and it is a spirited little piece, befitting the comedy of disguise and mistaken identity which inspired it.

Vienna 1788

By the end of the 1770s, Mozart’s need to expand his horizons beyond Salzburg reached the breaking point. He found his opportunity in 1781, when Archbishop Colloredo included Mozart in his retinue while in residence in Vienna for celebrations of the accession of Emperor Joseph II. Mozart was increasingly resentful of his position as a servant (considered lower in station than the valets, though above the cooks!), and also increasingly enthusiastic about the prospect of earning his own living in Vienna. When his request to be released from service was refused, his behavior was such that in a few short weeks he was summarily dismissed. Count Arco, the Archbishop’s steward, was given the task of sending him packing, and admonished Mozart: “here [in Vienna] a man’s success is of short duration — at the outset one reaps all possible praises and earns a great deal of money as well. That is true, but for how long? — after a few months the Viennese want something new again.”

If Mozart’s fortunes looked bright during his first years in Vienna, they indeed soon turned. By 1788 Mozart was in  serious debt, as attested by a series of heartrending letters to his fellow Mason, Michael Puchberg, pleading for money. In all, Puchberg lent Mozart 1,415 gulden, a significant sum. His wife Constanze’s health was suffering from the strain of repeated pregnancies, and on June 29 the Mozarts’ fourth child, Theresia, died at the age of six months.

Three days earlier Mozart had completed Symphony no. 39 in E-Flat Major. Symphony no. 40 in G Minor followed four weeks later, and Symphony no. 41 in C Major two weeks after that. They were to be his last three symphonies, and were apparently composed neither on commission, nor with any concrete plans for performance.  It is possible that Mozart directed performances of the works during his travels to Prague, Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin, undertaken in search of renewed fame and fortune outside the confines of fickle Vienna.

The three symphonies are remarkable works, widely contrasting, and together a comprehensive summary of the classical symphony. Of the three, the one that has drawn the most attention is the arresting Symphony no. 40. In 1793, two years after Mozart’s death, it was advertised by the Viennese music dealer Johann Traeg as “one of the last and most beautiful of this master.” The work was widely known and performed, and was very influential. The Mozart scholar Neal Zaslaw suggests that its essence can be heard again in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and Bruckner symphonies. The slow movement is quoted by Haydn in his oratorio The Seasons. The quotation appears in the aria where winter is compared to old age, following the words “exhausted is the summer’s strength” — Haydn’s gesture a commemoration of the loss of his younger colleague as well as a reflection of the approaching end of his own career. Schubert made a copy of the Minuet and used it as a model for the G-Minor Minuet of his Fifth Symphony.

Early nineteenth-century critics already described the symphony as “romantic,” and although it is a near-perfect exemplar of the classical style, it is also a deeply personal, original, and intense work. Much has been written about its significance as a link between musical classicism and romanticism. Zaslaw describes it as “perhaps even a mournful hint at what Mozart might have composed had he lived a normal lifespan.”

“One must hear Mozart’s deep, artful, and emotion-filled Symphony in G Minor [no. 40] several times to be able to completely understand and enjoy it.”

– Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 1804

Tafelmusik first performed Symphony 40 in 2001 at the Klang und Raum Festival in Irsee, Germany, conducted by Bruno Weil, and again on tours of the US and Europe the following season. This season marks our third performances of the symphony here in Toronto.


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Elisa Citterio

Sept 20–23, 2018
Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
1756–1791

Overture to La finta gardiniera, K.196 + 207a (1774/75)
Allegro molto
Andantino grazioso
Allegro

Concerto for violin in D Major, K.218 (1775)
Allegro
Andante cantabile
Rondeau: Andante grazioso – Allegro ma non troppo
Elisa Citterio, violin soloist

INTERMISSION

Concerto for bassoon in B-flat Major, K.191 (1774)
Allegro
Andante ma adagio
Rondo: Tempo di Menuetto
Dominic Teresi, bassoon soloist

Symphony no. 40 in G Minor, K.550 (1788)
Molto allegro
Andante
Menuetto & Trio
Allegro assai

Tafelmusik at 40: 1978/79 – 1988/89

As we celebrate 40 years of Tafelmusik, we’ll look back at this incredible journey through timelines of highlights of each decade. First up: 1978/79 to 1988/89, our first decade!

Founders Kenneth Solway and Susan Graves
Founders Kenneth Solway and Susan Graves

1978/79
Kenneth Solway and Susan Graves establish The Toronto Chamber Music Collective and present A Spring Festival of Baroque Music, featuring a concert of orchestral music of J.S. Bach performed by The Festival Baroque Orchestra (later renamed Tafelmusik)

1979/80
April 17, 1980 marks the first concert with Jeanne Lamon as guest director in a program of works by Handel, Bach, Purcell, and Telemann

1980/81
Kenneth Solway finds a permanent home for Tafelmusik at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre in downtown Toronto (where we still perform almost 40 years later!)

First annual performance of Handel Messiah (with St. Thomas’ Singers)

The orchestra on the steps of Trinity-St. Paul’s in 1981
The orchestra on the steps of Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre in 1981

1981/82
Jeanne Lamon assumes position of Music Director

Orchestra’s first tours of North America, including New York’s Lincoln Centre

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir founded

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir (Note soprano Julie Payette — now Governor General — in upper left corner)
Tafelmusik Chamber Choir (Note soprano Julie Payette — now Governor General — in upper left corner)

1983/84
First recording produced: Popular Masterpieces of the Baroque

1984/85
First European tour includes Lisbon, Madeira, Holland, and Germany

1985/86
First collaboration with Opera Atelier at the Royal Ontario Museum

1986/87
First Sing-Along Messiah performed at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

First tour of Central and South America

Members of Tafelmusik in front of the Bach statue in Eisenach, during tour of the former East Germany, spring 1987
Members of Tafelmusik in front of the Bach statue in Eisenach,
during a tour of the former East Germany, in spring 1987

1987/88
Signing of BMG recording contract which results in 4 CDs

1988/89
Frans Brüggen takes the orchestra into the early nineteenth century, directing Schubert Symphony no. 5

On the steps of Ludwigsburg Palace, May 1989
On the steps of Ludwigsburg Palace, May 1989

Quotes on Mozart’s 40th Symphony

By Tim Crouch, Senior Marketing Manager

We open our 2018/19 40th anniversary season with Mozart’s Symphony no. 40 in Mozart 40. The music of Mozart is always a favourite for our orchestra and choir to perform — here are some of my favourite quotes on the composer and his symphony.

Mozart 40 - gold and silver florets on a yellow background

On Symphony no. 40

  • an “appeal to eternity” – Alfred Einstein
  • it possesses “Grecian lightness and grace” – Robert Schumann
  • “a work of passion, violence, and grief” – Charles Rosen

On Mozart

  • “Mozart is the highest, the culminating point that beauty has attained in the sphere of music.” – Tchaikovsky
  • “Does it not seem as if Mozart’s works become fresher and fresher the more often we hear them?” – Robert Schumann
  • “Mozart tapped the source from which all music flows, expressing himself with a spontaneity and refinement and breathtaking rightness.” – Aaron Copland

Quotes by Mozart

  • “I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”
  • “Melody is the essence of music.”
  • “All I insist on, and nothing else, is that you should show the whole world that you are not afraid. Be silent, if you choose, but when it is necessary, speak — and speak in such a way that people will remember it.”

Join Tafelmusik for MOZART 40 at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre from September 20–23, 2018.