Get to know Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepianist

Get to know Kristian Bezuidenhout

Fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout returns to direct Tafelmusik this November in Mozart’s Piano. Leading up to the concerts, Marketing Manager Tim Crouch caught up with Kristian over the phone while he was at his home in London, England. Here is the full conversation.

Welcome back to Tafelmusik! What have you been busy with since we last saw you in 2013?

Well, I guess it’s safe to say that one of the biggest things that’s happened since then is the completion of the solo Mozart cycle for Harmonia Mundi. Ten CDs of solo keyboard music. When I started the cycle in 2009 I didn’t have a sense that when it came to an end it would feel so bittersweet. But when volume 9 and 10 came out it felt a little bit like the cast of Will & Grace saying, “This is the final episode.” It was a really big thing to have done, to spend so much time with Mozart’s solo keyboard music — to really investigate it as thoroughly as that.

Some of the recent highlights for me have been closer collaboration with many of the groups I have admired from afar. One of them was the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique with John Elliot Gardiner: we had a big tour of piano concertos in November of last year. That was life-changing thing for me.

I have been increasingly directing more and more from the keyboard. Tafelmusik was really one of the first projects that I directed from the keyboard in repertoire like that. You know, being on the stage with a group as wonderful as Tafelmusik and exploring a program like that, playing piano concertos and symphonies and directing from the keyboard and playing continuo, is a whole different ball game. I was so touched by the positivity, and the energy and the classiness of the playing, and how natural that whole relationship felt. It was just terrific.

I think that experience really gave me the courage that I needed to set off down that path. There have since been projects with Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, English Concert, Juilliard 415, and others. One of the highlights was directing my first St. Matthew Passion, with Dunedin Consort, in an essentially one-on-a-part performance which I directed from the harpsichord and organ. It was truly one of those moments that just changes your sort of DNA overnight.

Bach has played an ever-growing role in the last few years, including performing and recording all of the Bach violin sonatas with Isabelle Faust. Rediscovering my early training as a harpsichordist at the Eastman School and the chance to spend so much time working on Bach’s keyboard music has filled me with great joy.

Tell us a bit about the program you’ve selected for this week?

This program was designed along similar lines as the first one in 2013. I think it’s always been my belief that it’s wonderful to hear a full program of Mozart, but it’s also fantastic to hear music that influenced him. Hearing Mozart in context with music of the Bach sons provides us with fascinating insights into his working methods and where he finds inspiration in the music that he hears. With Carl Philipp and Johann Christian I’d like to think that there’s a certain sense that the fusion of styles that those two composers represent finds its natural outcome in the music of Mozart. We know that when Mozart was in London he met Johann Christian Bach, and something about JC really deeply impressed Mozart. For me, it’s this inexpressible, incredibly highly refined Italianate sense of melody that Johann Christian seems to conjure, almost singlehandedly, historically speaking. I think Mozart is very touched by the wonderful artlessness of the melodic writing of Johann Christian. As to Carl Philipp, one of the things that impressed Mozart was his incredible sense of making music sound as if it is almost improvised on the spot, sometimes going to places of real extremity in terms of the gesture. I find that when you hear CPE on a program of Mozart, it sounds much more kind of lyrical and beautiful, and Mozart conversely sounds much more revolutionary and at times eccentric. I love the fact that you hear composers so differently when you hear music of composers who influenced them around the same time. And I love the contrast in textures that you get between solo works for keyboard, symphonies, piano concertos, and then strings symphonies as well. The wonderful differences in colour and taste when you hear the JC Bach Symphony, curiously for him in the key of G minor, which is so much more Sturm und Drang than we might associate normally with JC Bach. Then the kind of laser clarity and brilliance of Carl Philipp’s incredibly difficult string writing, and how that bleeds into the mature string and wind sound that Mozart conjures for the piano concerto in the 1780s. It’s a marvelous look at the laboratory element of orchestration in this period I think.

You have a very full touring schedule. What do you do to stay healthy and happy while on the road?

When you get up at 5 o’clock in the morning for a flight, you have to tell yourself that that’s what you’re getting paid for, in a sense. Then you get on stage and play with wonderful colleagues in great halls, and that’s really the part that’s free.

You know, more and more you just look a little bit to the creature comforts. The thing that I look forward to most is finding a really lovely bar in a new city and going there with colleagues after a concert and having a really nice gin martini and just experiencing the new city. One of the things I love more than anything is getting up after breakfast and just walking for hours in any new city that I’m in, or any city for that matter. The feeling of not being a tourist while you’re supposed to be a tourist is so great, because you’re walking the street and experiencing city life. I’m not one these people who forces myself into a really strict museum or tourist itinerary, as that kind of stresses me out.

Having high-speed internet connections when you’re on the road is wonderful. Recently, I have been on a mad obsession with Bach cantatas, studying scores online in hotel rooms, and getting a grip on the text and the historical context. And then there are other times when there’s nothing better than settling down with Netflix and a martini.

Who is your favourite composer to perform?

I think maybe a year ago I would have said Mozart. But recently, I would say the feeling of enrichment that one gets when one plays Bach, and I don’t mean so much playing solo keyboard music. I have never had felt quite as intensely connected with something as I felt when directing the St. Matthew Passion.
I think it’s safe to say Bach’s large-scale vocal and orchestral music — that feeling of high and incredible, almost exhausting concentration that you need to play Bach — is probably the feeling is that I’m chasing most at the moment. It’s very different with Mozart. It’s much more natural and effortless somehow, even as a player. I think increasingly I’d say that Bach is the person that fulfills that role, especially in a collaborative situation, where I’m playing continuo in sort of larger organism.

What do you like to do on a day off?

I’d say that I’m super house-proud. Honestly, I love cleaning. I love getting home and just setting things straight, getting the house tip-top. The first thing I do is I go and buy fresh flowers. Probably because life is so chaotic and you’re at a different airport all the time, I love the feeling of structure and order. I then take my physiotherapist’s advice as much as I can, to relax, and to sleep!

What was your first music gig?

Probably the first time I thought that I was actually really 100% a professional musician was a solo recital that I gave in Utrecht in 2001 after winning the Bruges competition. It was a prize concert, so it wasn’t an official engagement in a sense, but I was paid a fee — the largest single amount I had been paid for anything —and I remember in that moment thinking, “OK, this is really what is happening now.” It was a kind of kooky concert in a coffee shop, a solo Mozart recital, and my brother came … it is a really strong memory.

What are the last three recordings you listened to?

I just opened Spotify to check what I’ve been listening to:

Michael Nyman’s No Time in Eternity, performed by Céladon. It’s a fifteen-minute piece for viols and countertenor with Byrd and Tallis. It’s exquisite, a total find for me as I was just browsing around: it was on a playlist from the Ambronay Festival. I was just so struck by the beauty of this piece.

An amazing relatively recent disc of Du Mont motets (O Mysterium) from Ensemble Correspondances, a French group directed by Sébastien Daucé. What they’re doing for late seventeenth-century French music, particularly Charpentier, is just unbelievable.

Bach Cantatas for soprano with Carolyn Sampson and Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, which was released in May 2017.

What is your “guilty pleasure” music to listen to?

Definitely ABBA — I’m not shy about it!

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

I think it’s very clear for me that that is John Eliot Gardiner. I think it’s a question of what reaches you at a certain time in your upbringing. For me growing up in Australia, many of his recordings came into my life and changed the whole way I thought about how this music would sound. Crucially, I was really struck by that when reading so many of his texts and interviews. He takes both the music and the details of the historicism of it seriously, but then at the end of the day, it is combined with really strong and sensible instincts and really top-quality playing. And I thought to myself at that moment, okay this is it. This is the field. I want to be playing old instruments because this sound just reaches me in a really visceral, strong, dramatic way. Having had the opportunity to work with him a couple of times, I am so deeply impressed by the ability for someone on that level to continually be asking themselves questions, and continually be forcing themselves to be on the highest level, despite the fact that it would be very easy to rest on decades of top-quality, path-breaking projects.

Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?

I would like to start my own group. As much as I love Mozart, the Bach sons, and Haydn, I’m dying to really get into German sacred repertoire and address a new idea for the large-scale Bach choral and orchestral works, especially the Passions. Of course, this has been done one-on-a part before, but I want it to again be reclaimed by the keyboard director at the heart of the proceedings. I think that is truly so absolutely characteristic of what the journey of directing these pieces means. I am dying to record both of the Passions with a group of eight to twelve singers and a very small orchestra. Although we’ve got countless recordings of these pieces, they do somehow bear renewed investigation every time. There is something about any audience that hears these pieces, when the performers are really engaged on that level … they think they could hear the whole thing, all three hours, again. I am so struck by that, deeply, with Bach. So, just more and more of that!


Join Kristian and Tafelmusik for Mozart’s Piano from November 9–12, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

Advertisements

Behind the Musik: Mozart’s Piano

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
by Charlotte Nediger

J.C. Bach Symphony in G Minor, op. 6, no. 6

Of Johann Sebastian Bach’s many children, four enjoyed substantial careers as musicians: Carl Philipp Emanuel and Wilhelm Friedemann, born in Weimar to Maria Barbara; and Johann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian, born some twenty years later in Leipzig to Anna Magdalena. The youngest son, Johann Christian, is often called “the London Bach.” He was by far the most travelled member of the Bach family. After his father’s death in 1750, the fifteen-year-old went to Berlin to live and study with his brother Emanuel. A fascination with Italian opera led him to Italy four years later. He held posts in various centres in Italy (even converting to Catholicism) before settling in London in 1762. There he enjoyed considerable success as an opera composer, but left a greater mark by organizing an enormously successful concert series with his compatriot Carl Friedrich Abel. Much of the music at these concerts, which included cantatas, symphonies, sonatas, and concertos, was written by Bach and Abel themselves. Johann Christian is regarded today as one of the chief masters of the galant style, writing music that is elegant and vivacious, but the rather dark and dramatic Symphony in G Minor, op. 6, no. 6 reveals a more passionate aspect of his work.

J.C. Bach is often cited as the single most important external influence on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart synthesized the wide range of music he encountered as a child, but the one influence that stands out is that of J.C. Bach. Mozart spent fifteen months in London as a boy, in 1764–65, and Bach took the seven-year-old prodigy under his wing. Wolfgang’s sister Nannerl recalls in her memoirs:

Herr Johann Christian Bach, the Queen’s teacher, sat [Wolfgang] between his legs: the former played a few bars, and the other continued, and in this way they played a whole sonata, and someone not seeing it would have thought that only one man was playing it.

In 1778 Bach visited Vienna, and Mozart wrote to his father:

You may easily imagine his joy and mine when we met again. […] I love him from my heart (as you know), and esteem him; and as for him, there is no doubt that he praises me warmly, not only to my face, but to others also, and not in the exaggerated manner in which some speak, but in earnest.

C.P.E. Bach Symphony for strings in C Major Wq 182/3

Mozart also greatly admired the works of the older Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, but from a distance: there is no evidence that the two ever met. Copies of keyboard solos by C.P.E. were included in the notebooks assembled by Leopold Mozart for his children. Wolfgang encountered his music again in Vienna at the home of Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who had served as Austrian envoy in Berlin. Van Swieten held weekly gatherings at his home in Vienna, to which he invited musicians to perform the works of the Lutheran Bachs, as well as the oratorios of Handel. Mozart was a regular guest at these assemblies. Here he would have encountered C.P.E.’s Six symphonies for string orchestra, Wq 182, commissioned by Van Swieten during a visit to Hamburg in 1773. Before the symphonies were handed over to van Swieten they were played through at the house of Professor Büsch in Hamburg. The violinist J.F. Reichardt led the ensemble on this occasion and wrote: “the original, bold concepts, the wide variety of forms and modulations, as well as their novel treatment, were received with enthusiasm.” He also noted that they were very difficult to play, but that the Baron had expressly requested that Bach put technical considerations aside when composing the works.

Mozart Symphony no. 29 in A Major

Mozart’s earliest symphonic writing shows the clear influence of Johann Christian Bach, and of his sojourns in Italy. In 1773, at the age of seventeen, he travelled to Vienna and must have heard some symphonies while he was there, for he returned to Salzburg and penned two decidedly Viennese works: the so-called “Little G-Minor” Symphony, K.183, and the Symphony in A Major, K.201 that we are performing this week. The symphonies clearly show the influence of Haydn, both in form and style. The A-Major Symphony was written with a relatively small orchestra in mind, with a wind section consisting of only oboes and horns. Evidently Mozart himself was pleased with the work, and he revived it several times after settling in Vienna without substantial revision.

Mozart Rondo in A Minor for solo piano, K.511

The Rondo in A Minor was composed in March of 1787, in a relatively quiet period in terms of output. The previous year, Mozart had enjoyed tremendous success with Marriage of Figaro, first in Vienna, and then in Prague. It had also been a busy year in terms of instrumental compositions, with several concertos, chamber pieces, piano works, and the “Prague” Symphony. By October of 1787 he was back in Prague with a new opera, Don Giovanni, but in the interim penned only a handful of instrumental works, the Rondo among them. It stands out amongst Mozart’s solo piano music as exceptionally intimate, with an air of melancholy and mystery. It was not written on commission, nor is there any dedication, and its elusive nature has led to conjecture that he wrote it for himself. It has been suggested that it may have been written in response to the death of a close friend: the aristocrat Count August Hatzfeld was a gifted violinist who had participated in many performances of Mozart string quartets. Mozart wrote to his father of the “sad death of my dearest and best friend, the Count von Hatzfeld. He was just 31, like me; I do not feel sorry for him, but pity both myself and all who knew him as well as I did.” Scholars have noted that the influence of C.P.E. Bach’s piano music can be felt in the Rondo, and pianists have remarked that it looks forward to Schumann and Chopin in its deeply personal expression.

Mozart Concerto for piano no. 12 in A Major, K.414

The A-Major Piano Concerto is one of three concertos performed at Mozart’s Lenten concerts of 1783. Composed a year after Mozart’s move to Vienna, it is also the first of the great series of fifteen piano concertos he composed in the capital in the 1780s. On December 28, 1782, he wrote to his father:

I must write in the greatest haste, as it is already half past five and I have asked some people to come here at six to play a little music. I have so much to do these days that often I do not know whether I am on my head or my heels. The whole morning, until two o’clock, is spent giving lessons. Then we eat. After this meal I must give my poor stomach a short hour for digestion. The evening is therefore the only time I have for composing and of that I can never be sure, as I am often asked to perform at concerts. There are still two concertos wanting to make up the series of subscription concerts. These concertos are a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are also passages here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less discriminating cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why.

Despite the busy schedule, Mozart had completed the remaining two concertos (K.413 and 415) a few weeks later. In January he placed a notice in the Wiener Zeitung advertising carefully copied manuscript copies of all three concertos, to be sold by subscription only from his apartment on the Hohe Brücke. His father suggested that the price of four ducats was too high, but Mozart responded, “I believe that I should earn at least one ducat for each concerto, and I can’t imagine that anyone could get it copied for one ducat!” His father may have been right, for sales were low, but the concerts were successful, and Mozart’s reputation as both composer and pianist greatly enhanced. Two years later the three concertos were engraved and published by the Viennese publishing firm Artaria as Opus 4.

Noteworthy in the A-Major Concerto is the middle movement, based on a theme from the Overture to La calamita de cuori by Johann Christian Bach. Bach had died a few months before the concerto was written, and the beautiful Andante is a touching musical epitaph to Mozart’s mentor.


PROGRAM LISTING
Kristian Bezuidenhout, guest director & fortepiano soloist
November 9—12, 2017, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH (1735–1782)
Symphony in G Minor, op. 6, no. 6 (London/Amsterdam, 1770)
Allegro
Andante più tosto adagio
Allegro molto

CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH (1714–1788)
Symphony for strings in C Major, Wq 182/3 (Hamburg/Vienna, 1773)
Allegro assai
Adagio
Allegretto

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756–1791)
Symphony no. 29 in A Major, K.201 (Salzburg, 1774)
Allegro moderato
Andante
Menuetto & Trio
Allegro con spirito

W.A. MOZART
Rondo in A Minor for solo piano, K.511 (Vienna, 1787)

W.A. MOZART
Concerto for piano no. 12 in A Major, K.414 (Vienna, 1782)
Allegro
Andante
Rondo: Allegretto

There will be a 20-minute intermission.


Kristian Bezuidenhout’s appearance is generously sponsored by Margaret & John Catto.


Join us for Mozart’s Piano from November 9–12, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

Mozart’s Piano: The Fortepiano

The piano used in our performances of Mozart’s Piano by fortepiano virtuoso Kristian Bezuidenhout was made by Thomas and Barbara Wolf in 1997 in The Plains, Virginia, outside Washington, DC. It is modelled on the work of the eighteenth-century Viennese maker Anton Walter, and has a keyboard range of just over five octaves (from FF to g”’). Knee levers are used to raise the dampers, and a hand stop operates the moderator (a piece of cloth that slides into place between the hammers and strings to produce a muted effect). Veneered in curly cherry, the case is primarily of spruce.

Walter Piano

Gabriel Anton Walter (1752–1825) was part of a cadre of piano makers, performers, and composers living in Vienna. Walter and his colleagues Stein, Hofmann, Kober, and Schantz worked closely with Haydn, Mozart, Hummel, and Beethoven. Each maker had his own designs and brought special qualities to the instruments, which the composers used to advantage. Haydn praised Walter’s pianos for their brilliance and complained about the prices he charged, but ultimately preferred the pianos of Schantz. Beethoven, while liking Walter’s instruments, also expressed concern about their economics.  Acquainted with most of the German and Austrian makers and often praising them, at the time of his death Mozart owned an early-period Walter of a slightly different design than the more usual model heard tonight.

Thomas and Barbara Wolf have made reproductions of historical keyboard instruments since 1969. Originally trained as musicians (he a bassist, she a pianist), they apprenticed in the workshops of Frank Hubbard and Eric Herz in Boston. In 1974 they moved to Washington, DC to begin a long association with the keyboard collection at the Smithsonian Institution, filling the roles of restorer, conservator, and technician. The Wolfs make a wide variety of clavichords, harpsichords, and fortepianos based on originals from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. Restoration and maintenance of antique instruments is also important to the Wolfs: their work can be found in the collections of several museums.

We are delighted that the builder Barbara Wolf will join us to tune and maintain the fortepiano. If you attend a concert, please feel free to welcome her and ask her questions about the instrument. However, we ask that you leave her in peace during the intermission tuning.


Join us for Mozart’s Piano from November 9–12, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.


University of Toronto: Faculty of MusicThe fortepiano belongs to the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, and we are very grateful for the very generous loan of the instrument for this week’s concerts. Special thanks are extended to Dean Don McLean and to Piano Technician Gordon Christie for their support and assistance.

My Tafelmusik … with Dorothy Russel

In our ongoing series of featuring long-term supporters, “My Tafelmusik” invites donors to share their story in a Tafelmusik house program, and various digital platforms.

 Individual support is integral to Tafelmusik. It funds live concerts in Toronto and across the world, education programs for young people, innovative new multi-media and recording projects … in addition to bringing renowned guest artists to our stage.

By Dorothy Russel

I imagine my musical life began in utero. My mother, a classically trained pianist, was the rehearsal accompanist for the Verdun Operatic Society in Montreal. This may explain my affinity for 1950s Broadway musicals. My musical education continued with piano lessons, singing in an elite youth choir, and playing the flute in high school and university bands and orchestras, augmented by regular attendance at TSO concerts.

Having become disenchanted with the TSO, in 1991 I subscribed to Tafelmusik. I immediately appreciated the excellence of their craft, the clarity of their sound and musical lines, and crisp articulation. Their delight in making music together was obvious, as was their joy in sharing it with us. What began as a way to have a regular outing with my sister, alternating with a date night with my sweetheart Rudy, soon became an addiction. I believe I have not missed a concert in the regular season since. And we even travelled to Irsée to hear them in the off-season. Before long, Rudy and I felt we were part of the Tafel family. Deep friendships developed over countless post-matinée dinners that Rudy produced at our house.

Music nourishes my soul. At no time was this more important than when Rudy died unexpectedly in 2013. A Tafel concert of the Mozart Requiem not long after conjured memories of our rich life together, rather than plunging me into sorrow as I’d anticipated. For many months, recordings by members of Tafelmusik filled my home with music and provided much needed company.

My recent donation of a baroque viola to the Jeanne Lamon Instrument Bank has filled me with indescribable joy. Unlike a contribution to a fund, this is something tangible. I can experience it year after year as each new student receives the opportunity to explore their music with a new tool. I feel part of something quite special — a circle of creation.


Support a global leader! Membership donations allow Tafelmusik to continue
inspiring the love of baroque and classical music. Give today!

Still becoming Canadian – Performing at Her Excellency Mme. Payette’s Installation as Governor General

by Patrick Jordan, viola

The vast majority of the music we perform in Tafelmusik is from Europe in the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries, a world dominated by royalty, birthright, and the rigid definition of society by class. We are, in all sorts of ways, trying to both understand that time, aesthetically, culturally, and socially, and also make that music relevant to the world that we live in today.

Tafelmusik with Her Excellency, Julie Payette
(L-R) Margaret Gay (cello), Patricia Ahern (violin), Patrick Jordan (viola), Elisa Citterio (violin), Mirko Trinchera, Her Excellency, Julie Payette.

Sometimes, a context for those aims presents itself, unbidden. Her Excellency, Mme Payette chose all of the music that was to be a part of her installation this past Monday, October 2nd. The range of performers was wide, inclusive, and inspiring. Members of Tafelmusik were invited to take part because the new Governor General was once a member of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, an experience that she herself has characterized as transformative. Upon reflection, the ceremony was also one of the most eighteenth century experiences of my performing career!

Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, a contemporaneously significant if now largely forgotten composer and Kapellmeister of the second half of the eighteenth century (and great pal of Haydn and Mozart, both), wrote an autobiography in 1799, his last and sixtieth year. Amongst the tidbits of his recounts of daily life as a musician is the avuncular advice to young violinists (and I rely upon my memory here), “Before going to sleep at night, the young virtuoso is strongly advised to check the strings on the violin; if one should be found to be fraying, change it forthwith. Supposing the Prince demand it, and should you be called upon to perform the next morning at 6 a.m., better to have let the new string stretch for those hours, to ensure the purity of your intonation.”

Unlike Dittersdorf, as artists today, we enjoy immense autonomy — as a general rule, the audience waits for us to take the stage, not the other way around. Monday’s performance was very much at the command of the powers that be, and I can’t say I have felt that so intensely before. Tafelmusik’s position on the day was to play the first movement of Mozart’s Divertimento in D major, K.136 (no second repeat, we had to be done in +/- 4 minutes and 15 seconds) immediately after the address of our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, and before Her Excellency Mme Payette’s first address as the new Governor General of Canada. Not a bad spot! But not a spot that offered a great deal of flexibility.

Investiture rehearsal
Rehearsal before the big moment in the Senate Chamber.

During the ceremony, we were again, with all the other performers, in the holding room until we were taken to the green room. Our rehearsal the day before had not included the 21-gun salute being fired by howitzers on Parliament Hill, nor the shaking of the glass in the windows on our walk upstairs! I am not so accustomed to such displays of power, which would have routinely accompanied the presence of dignitaries in the eighteenth century.

(L-R) Margaret Gay (cello), Patricia Ahern (violin), Patrick Jordan (viola), Elisa Citterio (violin), Mirko Trinchera, The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau.

Immediately after we played, we were taken back to the green room. It was from there, via closed circuit TV, that we heard Her Excellency’s first official address. Her messages of inclusion, striving to achieve, working as a team, and making decisions based on evidence to create the best possible world for us all were genuinely inspiring. At the end of the ceremony, all of the performers were asked to wait in the green room until Her Excellency Mme Payette and the Prime Minister, his wife, and the Minister of Heritage, Mélanie Joly, had the opportunity to greet us. We had been informed of the proper protocol for addressing the dignitaries, and had all practised up in advance. When they joined us (we were given a ten-minute warning then a three-minute countdown), the day took a very welcome giant step forward into Canada in the twenty-first century. I tried to squeeze in the “correct” address but didn’t really have an opportunity because each of them was so warm and direct. Her Excellency Mme Payette wanted to know if any of us present had been in the orchestra when she sang in the choir (no, I missed her by one year). Elisa Citterio, our new Music Director was next to me on the receiving line with her fourteen-month old daughter in her arms — Olivia was definitely a hit!

Live coverage of Investiture
They spelled our name right!

I truly wish that everyone in the orchestra and choir could have been part of this, but that was not to be. I know it would have meant a great deal to many of them, especially the people who have been here for even longer than I. Beth Anderson, our Director of Artistic Administration and Operations, was lucky enough to join us on this adventure. On the bus ride away from Parliament Hill, she remarked that she found it interesting that not one of the performers had actually been born in Canada. For a moment, I thought “That’s terrible!” but it quickly dawned on me that here we were, a group of high-achieving performers who have come together with the goal of creating a powerful team for good. Wasn’t that a big part of the inspiring message from Her Excellency?

I am fond of the notion that we are all becoming ourselves in the context of a world that is changing around us. I suppose I am still “becoming Canadian” like everyone around me, and last Monday’s experience was a particularly proud and inspiring part of that journey.

Performing in the Senate Chamber

Behind the Musik: Elisa’s Italian Adventure

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing 

A Note from Elisa

Elisa Citterio, Music CirectorMy Italian Adventure was born out of a desire to take you by means of music on a journey to the land where I was born and have lived. My hometown is Brescia, and although much less famous than nearby Venice, it played an important role in the history of music. One cannot pinpoint the date and place that the violin reached its present shape, but the studio of the violin maker Giovanni Paolo Maggini and his contemporaries in Brescia certainly contributed to the development of string instruments and to achieving the highest level of craftsmanship. String instruments from the seventeenth century had a very warm voice, and the Brescian consort of strings apparently brought to mind the sound of madrigals by Luca Marenzio, also from Brescia.

Fontana, Marini, and Vivaldi’s father are also from this city. Brescianello, Steffani, and Locatelli were born in towns not far away (especially compared to Canadian distances!), and for Castello the only references we have are Venetian. Our short trip takes us therefore to towns within a 200-kilometre radius and spanning just over 100 years. Other than the celebrated Vivaldi, the composers we will encounter on this journey are less known to the general public, but they give us an idea of what people listened to in baroque Brescia and Venice. I hope you enjoy this Italian musical adventure!

 

 

Elisa Citterio

PROGRAM NOTES
By Christopher Verrette

Baroque music was born in Italy around the turn of the seventeenth century. The innovative new forms of opera, sonata, and concerto developed there were spread to the rest of Europe through both printed music and the travels of Italian musicians. Our program begins with music by three of the pioneering composers of the era.

Fontana Sonata XIV

Little is known about the life and career of Giovanni Battista Fontana beyond what is written in the memorial preface to his sole opus of sonatas, published posthumously in his native Brescia, an important centre of violin making. He went on to work in Rome, Venice, and finally Padua, and was praised as “one of the most singular virtuosi the age has known.” Fontana’s writing is very much akin to the vocal music of his generation and calls for the noble form of rhythmic flexibility singers called sprezzatura. In Sonata XIV, the two violinists rarely play at the same time, instead exchanging solos in dialogue almost like characters in an opera, then a burgeoning new art form. The dulcian (an early bassoon) joins later in a canzona-like section, playing a decorated version of the continuo line.

Marini Sinfonia – Allemanno

Biagio Marini is recognized today mostly for his innovations in solo violin playing, not only technical displays, but highly imaginative writing that explored the instrument more fully beyond the norms of dance and consort music. Also Brescian, Marini worked at the cathedral of San Marco in Venice under Claudio Monteverdi, then travelled widely through Italy and Germany and as far north as Brussels. His Opus 22, published after returning to Italy, includes a number of short pieces for four-part strings. The Sinfonia terzo tuono is deliciously vocal, sounding much like a popular song, while the Balletto quarto Allemanno ventures into the realm of the silly: the first violin gets stuck repeating a three-note motive for most of the second half until a cadence is finally reached.

Castello Sonata X

As with Fontana, the life of Dario Castello is not well documented. He is identified as the chief wind player at San Marco on the title page of his first book of sonatas. He calls his works Sonate concertante in stil moderno, making it quite clear that he is writing in a new style. He makes use of a wide variety of figures, with frequent, bold, and sometimes jarring changes of tempo and affect. Sonata X gives a distinct voice to the dulcian, an instrument Castello possibly played himself.

Stefanni Suite from Niobe

Italian musicians were in high demand outside of their homeland, particularly at the Catholic courts of the Holy Roman Empire. Thus the talented choirboy Agostino Steffani was recruited by the Bavarian court, arriving in Munich on his thirteenth birthday. No expense was spared on his education. He was sent to Rome and Paris for further study, and employed back in Munich as organist and director of chamber music. Mostly appreciated for his vocal duets, he also wrote for the stage, although he did so clandestinely later in life because of the distinguished status he had attained as a cleric and diplomat at the Hanoverian court and elsewhere. Niobe was composed for carnival in Munich and is based on the story found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses of a queen that angers the gods by boasting about her children, who are slaughtered as punishment and Niobe turned to stone.

Locatelli Concerto op. 4, no. 12

Pietro Locatelli was a native of Bergamo, but by age sixteen he had joined the vibrant musical community that served the many churches and influential families of Rome, under the guidance of Arcangello Corelli. His earliest published music shows him to be an accomplished disciple of Corelli, but already exhibiting some interesting ideas of his own. Notably he added a second viola part to the orchestral texture. He travelled extensively as a soloist and became known for his acrobatics on the violin, the high fees and lavish gifts he received from patrons, and his extravagant clothing (with the implication that it was above his station).

It was customary for composers to do something special with the final piece in a published collection. For the last of his Opus 4 concerti grossi, Locatelli writes for four solo violins instead of the usual two. The soloists are at first heard one at a time, then mostly in pairs, but there are moments where all the violins make a glorious noise together. In the last movement there is a lot of playful banter in which the violins echo each other.

Brescianello Suite in G Minor

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello was another talent imported from Italy to Germany, where he was ultimately triumphant in what was evidently a fierce competition with the native German Reinhardt Keiser over the position of Kapellmeister at Stuttgart. The Suite in G Minor demonstrates that he became proficient in the so-called “mixed style” popular in Germany in the eighteenth century, that melded elements of both French and Italian. The Ouverture and most of the dances exhibit French traits, while the composer’s Italian origin shines through most clearly in the Siciliano.

Vivaldi Autumn, from The Four Seasons

In The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi uses his signature form, the solo violin concerto, to paint musical pictures of the seasons, supported by sonnets which are actually imbedded in the musical score. For Autumn, he chooses the key of F Major, strongly associated with hunting horns, which suits the last movement in particular, but is evident already in the opening solo of the first movement. The ensuing rambunctious solo passages are specifically designated l’ubracio (the drunk) in the score, as the harvest is celebrated perhaps a little too enthusiastically. Baroque composers often used long sustained notes and stable harmony to represent sleep or repose, but Vivaldi portrays the alcohol-induced slumber of revellers with unsettling harmonies that refuse to resolve comfortably, and a further restlessness is added by incessant arpeggiation from the continuo instruments under the muted strings. The finale vividly captures images of the hunt, complete with horns, barking dogs, gunshots, and even the final death wail of the cornered animal.

L’autunno

I. Celebra il vilanel con balli e canti
Del felice raccolto il bel piacere
E del liquor di Bacco accesi tanti
Finiscono col sonno il lor godere.

Fà ch’ogn ’uno tralasci e balli e canti
L’aria che temperata dà piacere,
E la staggion ch’invita tanti e tanti
D’un dolcissimo sonno al bel godere. 

II. cacciator alla nov ’alba à caccia
Con corni, schioppi, e canni escono fuore
Fugge la belua, e seguono la traccia; 

III. Già sbigottita, e lassa al gran rumore
De’ schioppi e canni, ferita minaccia
Languida di fuggir, mà oppressa muore.

Autumn

I. The peasants celebrate with song and dance
their joy in a fine harvest
and with generous draughts of Bacchus’ cup
their celebrations end in sleep.

Song and dance are done;
the gentle, pleasant air
and the season invite one and all
to the delights of sweetest sleep.

II. At first light the huntsman sets out
with horns, guns, and dogs;
the wild beast flees, and they follow its trail.

III. Terrified and exhausted by the great clamour
of guns and dogs, wounded and afraid,
the beast tries to flee but is overcome and dies.


Vivaldi Concerto for 2 oboes

The oboe was a relatively new instrument on the Venetian scene at Vivaldi’s time. In 1704, it began to be taught at the Ospedale della Pieta, where Vivaldi taught violin, and he came to use it in many of his concertos. The double concerto in C Major makes some interesting departures from typical concerto form. Instead of the usual orchestral introduction, the oboes begin the piece without the strings, who come in only later with contrasting material. Also, the second and third movements begin with essentially the same music, only in the minor mode in the Largo and the major mode in the Allegro.


PROGRAM LISTING
Directed by Elisa Citterio
October 11—15, 2017, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

Giovanni Battista Fontana (1589-1630)
Sonata XIV for 2 violins, dulcian & continuo

Biagio Marini (c.1587–1663)
Sinfonia & Allemanno, from op. 22

Dario Castello (fl. 1625)
Sonata X for 2 violins, dulcian & continuo, from Book 2

Agostino Steffani (1654–1728)
Suite from Niobe
Entrée – Menuet – Ritornello – Gavotte – Ritornello – Adagio  – Ritornello – Gigue – Chaconne

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695–1764)
Concerto grosso in F Major, op. 4, no. 12
Allegro – Largo – Allegro

INTERMISSION

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello (1690–1758)
Orchestral suite in G Minor
Ouverture – Gavotte – Aria: Presto – Rondeau – Aria: Siciliana – Aria – Rigaudon – Gigue    

Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
Concerto for violin in F Major, op. 8, no. 3: Autumn, from The Four Seasons
Allegro – Adagio molto – Allegro
Elisa Citterio, violin soloist

A. Vivaldi
Concerto for 2 oboes in Major, RV 534
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
John Abberger & Marco Cera, oboe soloists

There will be a 20-minute intermission.


Join us for Elisa’s Italian Adventure from October 11–15, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

 

My Tafelmusik … with Margaret Szücs

In our series of featuring long-term supporters, “My Tafelmusik” invites donors to share their story in a Tafelmusik house program, and various digital platforms.

 Individual support is integral to Tafelmusik. It funds live concerts in Toronto and across the world, education programs for young people, innovative new multi-media and recording projects … in addition to bringing renowned guest artists to our stage.

Margaret Szücs

By Margaret Szücs, Tafelmusik donor

Summer afternoons in my high-school days (the “golden years” of the CBC) I listened to classical radio programs, and thus became an avid Mozart fan at age 17. I even attended the Salzburg Festival when I was 23. I took piano lessons for about eight years, and when I was older, I sang in the alto section of our church choir when they performed Handel’s Messiah. Yes, I did finally “do” a Sing-Along Messiah a few years ago. Wish I had done it sooner, and more often.

Approaching my sixties, I found that a program with a 110-piece orchestra was rather tiring after a long day’s work, so I was delighted when a colleague offered me a Tafelmusik subscription she had “inherited.” I forsook the TSO, and went on to continue her subscriptions. For about 25 years I went to dinner and Tafelmusik concerts with my best friend. For 14 of those, I came in from Fergus, Ontario by car, and later, by bus. Tafelmusik was one of the reasons why I moved back to Toronto.

Baroque and classical music suit my personality. They’re structured and polite, even when they’re emotional. You know where you’re headed, but the fun lies in getting there.

My mother’s family lived at 103 St. George Street. They were Methodists, so I like to assume they attended church at what is now Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. This prompted me to donate four seats in the Balcony, commemorating three generations.

I donate to the Education Fund regularly in hopes of attracting younger people to the orchestra’s superb musicianship. In recent years I have also donated to the Regent Park School of Music, convinced that music is not a “frill.”

There is a big gap in my life since I broke a third vertebra a year ago. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to attend the occasional concert at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

Classical music is what keeps me going, and Tafelmusik has been my primary source. My sincere thanks for years and years of enjoyment — of the pre-concert talks as well as the concerts.


Support a global leader! Membership donations allow Tafelmusik to continue
inspiring the love of baroque and classical music. Give today!