Behind the Musik: A Joyous Welcome

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By Charlotte Nediger


The instrumental portions of our performances this weekend feature Handel’s last compositions for orchestra, written when the composer was in his early sixties. Handel’s three Concerti a due cori were written as “interval music” for three new oratorios: Judas Maccabaeus (1747), Joshua (1748), and Alexander Balus (1748). An oratorio that advertised the inclusion of “a new concerto” always drew a crowd. In the case of the Concerti a due cori (“Concertos for two choirs”), the works were not only newly composed, but were also a new genre. Scored for two antiphonal “choirs” of wind instruments plus a full string orchestra with continuo, they are grandiose, extroverted works, undoubtedly inspired by the trio of so-called “Victory Oratorios” for which they were composed. All three include reworkings of earlier material: Handel’s audiences would have recognized most of them, drawn primarily from oratorio choruses, so the concertos must have had a certain “medley of great hits” quality. You may recognize the chorus “Lift up your heads” from Handel’s Messiah as the second movement of the concerto we are performing this week.


Corelli was among the first composers to write music for the orchestra independent of the opera, the dance, and the church. During a visit to Rome in 1681, the German musician Georg Muffat heard performances of Corelli concertos: “These concertos, suited neither to the church (because of the ballet airs and airs of other sorts which they include) nor for dancing (because of other interwoven conceits now slow and serious, now gay and nimble, and composed only for the express refreshment of the ear), may be performed most appropriately in connection with entertainments given by great princes and lords, for receptions of distinguished guests, and at state banquets, serenades, and assemblies of musical amateurs and virtuosi.” Ideal music, then, for welcoming a new Music Director! It was Corelli who popularized the concerto grosso, based on the popular form of the trio sonata for two violins and continuo, to which is added a four-part orchestra: when the two groups play in alternation a wonderful chiaroscuro is created. The solo or “concertino” trio supplies tenderness and virtuosity; the orchestra provides a rich sonority and solid foundation. Corelli started composing and performing concerti grossi as early as 1670, but only twelve were ever published, and those posthumously, as Opus 6, in 1714. Their publication had long been awaited throughout Europe, providing a model for many composers of the late baroque, but their simplicity, classical proportions, and utterly idiomatic string writing were never entirely surpassed. In a fitting tribute, the anniversary of Corelli’s death was marked for many years by the performance of the Opus 6 concertos in the Pantheon, where the composer was buried.


The Four Seasons appeared in Vivaldi’s 1725 publication of twelve violin concertos entitled Il Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione, which translates roughly as “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 author of the sonnets is unknown, and it is possible that Vivaldi penned them himself. To ensure that the musicians were aware of the effects they were to create, Vivaldi labelled the various lines of the sonnets to correspond with letters in each of the instrumental parts. He also included very detailed instructions for performance, including dynamics, bowing, and articulations. The concertos are dazzling proof of Vivaldi’s skill as a violinist and his ingenuity and inventiveness as a composer.

The sonnet and a page of the solo violin part of Summer from the original 1725 publication.
You can see the letters in the part that correspond to lines in the sonnet.

We are delighted to be presenting all four concertos over the course of our concert season, with Elisa Citterio as soloist. We begin with Summer, which opens with languid, oppressive heat from the blazing sun, accompanied by bird calls, and finally interrupted by a summer storm. A shepherd, terrified by the storm, attempts to calm himself in the second movement, but is pestered by insects and troubled by approaching thunder. The storm lets loose its fury in the final movement. The full sonnet is printed below.

(Join us as Vivaldi’s Seasons unfold: Autumn at our October concerts, Winter in January, and Spring rather optimistically at concerts in February!)


I.   Sotto dura staggion dal sole accesa
Langue l’huom, langue ’l gregge, ed arde il pino;
Scioglie il cucco la voce, e tosto intesa
Canta la tortorella e’l gardelino.

 Zeffiro dolce spira, mà contesa
Muove Borea improviso al suo vicino;
E piange il pastorel, perche sospesa
Teme fiera borasca, e’l suo destino;

 II.  Toglie alle membra lasse il suo riposo
Il timore de ’lampi, e tuoni fieri
E de mosche, e mossoni il stuol furioso!

III. Ah che pur troppo i suoi timor son veri
Tuona e fulmina il ciel e grandinoso
Tronca il capo alle spiche e a ’grani alteri.


I.   In the torrid heat of the blazing sun,
man and beast alike languish,
and even the pine trees scorch;
The cuckoo raises his voice, and soon after
the turtledove and goldfinch join in song.

Zephyr blows gently, but suddenly
Boreas contests its neighbour:
the shepherd weeps, fearful
of the wild squall and anxious for his fate.

II.  He rouses his weary limbs from rest
in fear of the lightning, the fierce thunder,
and the angry swarms of gnats and flies.

III. Alas! his fears are justified,
for furious thunder splits the heavens,
flattening the cornstalks and the grainfields.


Vivaldi wrote a number of concertos with an expanded orchestra, i.e. “con molti strumenti.” The Concerto in F Major is essentially a concerto for violin, but rather than accompanying the soloist with the usual string orchestra, Vivaldi adds oboes, bassoons, and horns to create a work that is colourful and festive. The winds play solo passages in dialogue with the violinist, often stealing the limelight. This concerto survives in two versions: Vivaldi’s manuscript score in Italy, and a manuscript score and set of parts copied by the violinist Pisendel at the court in Dresden. Pisendel was one of a small entourage of Dresden musicians who accompanied the Crown Prince of Saxony on a visit to Venice in 1716. Vivaldi was impressed with the abilities of these musicians, and by their accounts of the impressive skills of the Dresden court orchestra, with its legendary wind players. He befriended Pisendel, and sent music to him in Dresden on a regular basis. It is quite possible that many of Vivaldi’s Concertos con molti strumenti were written expressly for the Dresden court, including the concerto we are performing this week.


Les Boréades was Rameau’s last opera, composed in his eightieth year. Although rehearsals had begun as early as April 1763, no performance took place prior to Rameau’s death in September of 1764, for no obvious reason. The work was not premiered on stage until over 200 years later, in 1982 (by John Eliot Gardiner at the Aix-en-Provence Festival). It is a remarkable opera — Rameau seems to have summoned all of his creative energy to create one final masterpiece, a work that is surprisingly modern, sensual, and spirited. Like other Rameau operas, it includes a wealth of instrumental music, written to accompany the dance, to cover scene changes, and to provide aural “images” of events and scenes on stage. The splendid overture to the opera introduces the selection of instrumental movements we have chosen to close our concerts this week.

© Charlotte Nediger


Directed by Elisa Citterio

September 21–24, 2017, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre
September 26, 2017, George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)
Concerto a due cori in F Major, HWV 333 (London, 1748)
A tempo giusto
Allegro ma non troppo
A tempo ordinario

Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713)
Concerto grosso in C Major, op. 6, no. 10 (Rome, 1714)

Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
Concerto for violin in G Minor, op. 8, no. 2: Summer, from The Four Seasons (Venice, 1725)
Allegro non molto/Allegro
Elisa Citterio, violin soloist


A. Vivaldi
Concerto con molti strumenti in F Major, RV 569 (Venice/Dresden, 1720s)

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764)
Suite from Les Boréades (Paris, 1763)
Danse légère
Gavottes vives
Contredanse en rondeau
Entracte: Suite des vents [The winds
Gavotte légère
Entrée de Polymnie
Airs gay
Contredanses très vives

Join us for A Joyous Welcome from Sept 21-24, 26, 2017. Tickets are available here.


Behind the Musik: Mozart Mass in C Minor

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By Charlotte Nediger

Haydn Symphony no. 98 in B-flat Major

Johann Peter Salomon

Haydn’s life changed quite abruptly in 1790 with the death of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, his employer for almost 30 years. His son and successor, Prince Anton, had little interest in music and disbanded the court orchestra. Haydn moved to Vienna, and was soon visited there by Johann Peter Salomon, a German-born violinist who had moved to London and established a career as a successful impresario. It is reported that Haydn’s visitor announced himself with the famous words: “I am Salomon of London and have come to fetch you. Tomorrow we will arrange an accord.”

An accord was indeed arranged, and the pair left for London shortly thereafter, on December 15, 1790. In a letter home, Haydn wrote of his arrival:

[After the journey] I am fresh and well again, and occupied in looking at this endlessly huge city of London, whose various beauties and marvels quite astonished me. My arrival caused a great sensation throughout the whole city, and I went the rounds of all the newspapers for three successive days. Everyone wants to know me. I had to dine out six times up to now, and if I wanted, I could dine out every day; but first I must consider my health, and second my work. Except for the nobility, I admit no callers until two o’clock in the afternoon, and at four o’clock I dine at home with Mr Salomon … Everything is terribly expensive here … I wished I could fly for a time to Vienna, to have more quiet in which to work, for the noise that the common people make as they sell their wares in the street is intolerable. At present I am working on symphonies.

Salomon’s series opened in March 1791, two months after their arrival, and several of Haydn’s works were performed with great success. Performances were co-directed by Haydn at the keyboard (alternately the harpsichord or fortepiano, whichever was at hand), and by Salomon at the violin: he apparently stood in the curve of the keyboard instrument. For Haydn the experience of the audience was entirely different from that at the Esterházy court: this was a paying public, keen to be entertained, and vocal in their response. It was usual for the audience to applaud each movement, and to insist upon instant encores of favourite movements.

Haydn was persuaded to stay another year, and he spent the summer months at various country estates, away from the noise of the city. A second concert season followed in March 1792, and this included the premiere of Symphony no. 98. The symphony is often cited as the most personal of Haydn’s London symphonies, probably because it was composed soon after Haydn heard of Mozart’s untimely death. Haydn and Mozart were very close friends, greatly admiring each other’s work. Just before leaving for London, Salomon, Haydn, and Mozart dined together. Haydn’s friend and biographer A.C. Dies recounts:

… at the moment of parting, Mozart said, “We are probably saying our last adieu in this life.” Tears welled in both men’s eyes. Haydn was deeply moved, for he applied Mozart’s words to himself, and the possibility never occurred to him that the thread of Mozart’s life could be cut by the inexorable Fates the very next year.

The second movement is thought to be an homage by Haydn to his friend, opening with a quotation from the Agnus Dei of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, and later quoting a passage from the “Jupiter” Symphony. The final movement of the symphony is noteworthy, both as the longest finale of all of Haydn’s symphonies, and also for the inclusion of passages marked “Salomon solo” (i.e. for solo violin), and for a passage at the end marked “Haydn solo,” a short and witty little solo for the keyboard, described in a contemporary account of the first performance as “a passage of attractive brilliancy.” Audiences called for encores of both the first and fourth movements at the premiere.

Haydn left London to return to Vienna after the 1792 season, returning again in 1794 for one more year. It is a testament to Haydn’s popularity in London that Salomon’s tombstone in Westminster Abbey states simply, “He brought Haydn to England in 1791 and 1794.” The wonderful eighteenth-century music journalist Dr. Charles Burney wrote:

… it is well known how much [Haydn] contributed to our delight, to the advancement of his art, and to his own fame, by his numerous productions in this country and how much his natural, unassuming, and pleasing character, exclusive of his productions, endeared him to his acquaintances and to the nation at large.

Mozart Mass in C Minor

Constanze Mozart

During his employ at the archiepiscopal court in Salzburg, Mozart wrote a great deal of music for the Catholic church. After leaving Salzburg, Mozart wrote only a few sacred compositions: the motet Ave verum corpus, and the incomplete Mass in C Minor and Requiem. Ironically, the two incomplete works are Mozart’s great sacred masterpieces. Both are works of intensely powerful expression, masterful complexity, and sublime beauty. They are large-scale works, and even in their incomplete form give an impression of grandeur.

Although Mozart’s failure to complete the Requiem Mass can be explained by his final illness, the reasons for leaving the C-Minor Mass incomplete remain a mystery. Nor is it known with certainty why he undertook the composition of a full-scale mass in 1782, a year after leaving Salzburg. In a letter to his father dated January 4, 1783, he wrote:

I have truly promised this in my heart and hope to fulfill it … a proof of the reality of my promise, however, is the score of half a Mass, of which I have high hopes.

As to what he promised in his heart, it is thought that it was a vow to perform a new mass in Salzburg if he succeeded to bring Constanze there as his wife: after a difficult courtship they had married in August 1782. Others suggest it was connected with Constanze’s first pregnancy: a son was born in June 1783, but lived for just two months. In any case, the Mass was performed at St. Peter’s Church in Salzburg on October 23, 1783, with Constanze singing one of the solo soprano roles. In the performing score and parts, only the Kyrie, Gloria, and Benedictus are complete. The Credo breaks off after the Et incarnatus est, and the Agnus Dei is missing entirely. The orchestral parts for portions of the Credo are incomplete. It is not known how the 1783 performance was accomplished: whether, for example, parts were actually finished and subsequently lost, or whether Mozart completed the mass with a pastiche of earlier movements. In any case, the music that remains is remarkable. It is written in the form typical of baroque masses, with the text set in separate movements rather than set continuously, as in later masses. At the time of composition, Mozart was intensely studying works by Handel and Bach, and this is evident throughout the Mass, particularly in the choral writing. To this he adds two virtuoso solo soprano arias inspired by Italian opera. The result is a work that is a summation of the eighteenth century, and at the same time the work of a remarkably creative and original mind.

© Charlotte Nediger


Directed by Ivars Taurins & Elisa Citterio, violin
Julia Doyle & Joanne Lunn, sopranos
Asitha Tennekoon, tenor
Joel Allison, bass-baritone
May 4–7, 2017, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning

JOSEPH HAYDN 1732–1809
Symphony no. 98 in B-flat Major (London, 1792)
Adagio – Allegro
Menuetto & Trio
Finale: Presto


Mass in C Minor, K.427 (Salzburg, 1783)
Mozart Mass edited by Franz Beyer (Amadeus Verlag)

Behind the Musik: Bach: Keeping it in the Family

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By Charlotte Nediger

Johann Sebastian Bach, in 1735, set down detailed observations about his ancestors in his Ursprung der musicalisch-Bachischen Familie (Origins of the musical Bach family). This genealogy traces the family as far back as the mid-sixteenth century. By the turn of the seventeenth century, the musical family was so widespread in the Thuringian region that the name “Bach” had come to be regarded as synonymous with “musician.” From birth, it was assumed that virtually every male member of the family would become a musician, and the combination of inherited talent and training from the earliest age assured their success. Yet, as the increasingly popular bourgeois music culture of the late eighteenth century led to a sharp decline in the importance of leading musical institutions (court orchestras, Stadtpfeifer bands, and Cantoreien), traditional music dynasties such as the Bach family quickly disappeared. In 1843, at the ceremonial unveiling in front of the Thomaskirche of the Leipzig Bach monument donated by Mendelssohn, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst (the then 84-year-old grandson of J.S. Bach) was the sole representative of a family with a musical tradition of over 250 years.

Bach’s relationship with his sons can best be understood in view of this family tradition. He was keenly aware of his responsibility to pass on his legacy to his children, and was proud to record in a letter to a friend written in 1730, that his children “are all born musicians, and I can assure you that I can already form an ensemble both vocaliter and instrumentaliter within my family, particularly since my present wife sings a good, clear soprano, and my eldest daughter, too, joins in not badly.” Of Bach’s twenty children (seven with his first wife, Maria Barbara, and thirteen with his second wife, Anna Magdalena), ten survived infancy. Of these, four were female and six male. Little is known of the four girls, though the quote above suggests that they were well trained in music. Both of Bach’s wives came from musical families. There is no evidence that Maria Barbara was a practising musician herself, but Anna Magdalena was a very gifted soprano. Already at age twenty she was among the most highly paid musicians employed at the court in Cöthen, and continued singing there after her marriage to Bach. She seems to have left her performing career aside upon the family’s move to Leipzig (thirteen pregnancies in nineteen years may have been a significant factor!), but was one of Bach’s principal copyists, and was clearly actively involved in the children’s musical education. One daughter, Elisabetha Juliana (1728–81), married Johann Christoph Altnikol, a pupil of her father; the other three daughters remained single, living with their mother until her death in 1760. Their brother Carl Philipp Emanuel supported them financially from that point. The youngest daughter, Regina Susanna, outlived all of her siblings, and was supported in her final years through a fund raised by the editor of the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung,  in honour of her father.

Of the six sons, four became successful musicians: Wilhelm Friedemann (1710–84), Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714–88), Johann Christoph Friedrich (1732–95), and Johann Christian (1735–82). The two middle sons apparently also possessed considerable musical talent, but one suffered from a mental disorder, and the other, as stated by his father, “unfortunately turned out badly,” leaving an excellent post of organist to wander about the country, dying at age 24.

J.S. Bach spent a great deal of time and energy in the education of his sons, particularly in that of his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. In 1720, he wrote the Clavierbüchlein vor Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (Little keyboard book for W.F. Bach), a basic course in keyboard playing and composition. Indeed, all of his “pedagogical” works, such as The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Inventions and Sinfonias, the Orgelbüchlein, and the Clavier-Übung, must have been written initially with his sons and other pupils in mind. Their course of study would also have included the analysis and performance of the countless works of other German, French, and Italian composers collected by J.S. through his life. He also took care not to neglect their general, non-musical education. He stated that one of the principal reasons for accepting the post of Cantor in Leipzig was to enable his sons to enroll at the Thomasschule, and more importantly, the University of Leipzig.

Johann Sebastian continued to support his sons professionally until his death, finding positions for them, writing letters of reference, and visiting them whenever possible. C.P.E. and J.C. were to eventually exceed their father in contemporary fame: by 1780, when anyone spoke of “Bach,” it was more often one of these who was intended and not the father. Given his great respect for his family’s tradition, this in itself may have been considered by Johann Sebastian to be amongst his greatest accomplishments.


In 1723, J.S. Bach directed the performance of his Cantata 194, “Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest” (Most desired festival of joy) at the church in Störmhal, a village near Leipzig. The church had recently been rebuilt, with a new organ by Zacharias Hildebrandt, a young graduate of the workshop of the famed German organ builder Gottfried Silbermann. Bach had been asked to approve the instrument, and the cantata was performed at the dedication service. The organ is one of only a few instruments known to have been played by Bach that remains in its original condition.

Cantata 194 opens with a chorus in the style of a French orchestral overture, with a grand opening followed by a faster fugal section. As the chorus sings only in the fast section, and even then is doubled by instrumental parts, Alfredo Bernardini has taken the liberty of transcribing the movement for orchestra alone. He retains Bach’s original scoring, for three oboes, bassoon, and strings. In the opening section, Bach gives the main material to the winds and continuo, with the upper strings interjecting with unison scales as a sort of commentary. When the material returns at the end, he reverses the instrumentation: this time the strings and continuo prevail, and the oboes offer the commentary.


Although only two concertos for solo violin by Johann Sebastian Bach have survived, it is possible that he composed others. Both of the extant concertos exist in alternate versions for solo harpsichord, and some of the other harpsichord concertos are thought to have had their origin in lost violin concertos. The violin was certainly one of Bach’s favoured solo instruments: he turned to the violin as a counterpart to the solo voice in countless arias in cantatas and passions. Although primarily a keyboard player, Bach was also a capable violinist and violist, and he understood fully that the violin could be played on the one hand with great energy and virtuosity, and on the other with the most sublime and tender expression. This is witnessed in the contrasting movements of the violin concertos, which have long been a favourite of violinists and audiences alike.


J.S. Bach’s concertos — both for violin and harpsichord — would have been featured regularly at performances of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum, and the soloists in the harpsichord concertos would invariably have been his sons. It is no coincidence, then, that both Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel wrote numerous harpsichord concertos. C.P.E. wrote no fewer than 52 keyboard concertos, spanning his entire career. A few of these exist in alternate versions: at least three each for flute and violoncello, and two for oboe. The two oboe concertos were written in 1765, during his employ at the Prussian court of Frederick the Great in Berlin. It is likely that they were written for a specific player, either one of the court players, or perhaps more likely, a visitor to the court. It seems from the manuscripts that the oboe concertos were composed prior to the keyboard versions.

C.P.E. was in Frederick’s employment for nearly 30 years, and it was not always the most stimulating environment, as the king had rather staid musical tastes and favoured the “galant” style. In retrospect clearly the most gifted of the many musicians at the Prussian court, C.P.E. was nonetheless underpaid and underappreciated. Fortunately, his creativity, strength of character, and determination enabled him to create an impressive body of work despite the limiting environment, and he offers in his music a truly unique voice. He carried this voice to Hamburg, where he replaced Telemann as Cantor and Music Director for the city from 1768 until his death 20 years later. He had three children: one son became a lawyer; the other (named Johann Sebastian, after his grandfather) was an accomplished painter, but his career was cut short by his early death. His daughter did not marry, and C.P.E. had no grandchildren.


Wilhelm Friedemann held prominent postings in Dresden and Halle, his organ playing renowned throughout Europe. After his father’s death in 1750 he had repeated difficulties with his employers, and spent the end of his life in poverty in Berlin, his aloofness, intemperance, and desultory behaviour earning him few friends. His music is an intriguing reflection of both the strength of his talent and education, and the eccentricities of his character. Whereas C.P.E. blended the baroque style of his youth with the new to forge a unique blend, W.F. tends to shift from old to new, not only between pieces, but often within a piece. This can be heard in the capricious Sinfonia in F Major, composed in Dresden. In writing notes for Tafelmusik’s recording of the work, the musicologist Peter Wollny suggests the influence of Zelenka, and in the “tender” Andante, of Hasse. The trio of the Menuet is a clever canon, with the bass echoing the violins. The unexpected turns in the first movement earned the Sinfonia the nickname of “Dissonance”: the dissonances here are not meant to stir the passions, but rather are full of wit.


Telemann was godfather to Carl Philipp Emanuel, and a great support to him both personally and in terms of his career, so we have included him as an honorary member of the Bach family in this week’s concerts. With Alfredo Bernardini joining us, it gives us the opportunity to perform Telemann’s Suite in D Minor, scored for three oboes, bassoon, and strings. The use of three oboes, rather than the more usual two, offers a wonderfully rich tutti sound, and gives Telemann the chance to explore the contrasting colours of two four-part ensembles: the three oboes and bassoon versus the string ensemble. It was a texture also favoured by J.S. Bach, used in several cantatas (such as Cantata 194, the opening of which begins our concert), and the Fourth Orchestral Suite. In his orchestral suites, Telemann often leaves aside the traditional arrangement of dance movements for a selection of pieces with fanciful titles. In this suite, he retains the dances throughout, but imbues them with a great deal of character, leaving the musicians and listeners to invent the images they depict or the stories they recount.

© Charlotte Nediger

Directed by Alfredo Bernardini, Oboe & Cecilia Bernardini, Violin
April 5–9, 2017, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

Overture in B-flat Major, after BWV 194/1
Reconst. by A. Bernardini  (Leipzig, 1723)

Concerto for violin in E Major, BWV 1042
Allegro – Adagio – Allegro assai
Cecilia Bernardini, violin soloist

Concerto for oboe in E-flat Major, Wq 165 (Hamburg, 1765)
Allegro – Adagio ma non troppo – Allegro ma non troppo
Alfredo Bernardini, oboe soloist


Sinfonia in F Major, Fk 67 (Dresden, 1735–40)
Vivace – Andante – Allegro – Menuetto I/II

Orchestral Suite in D Minor, TWV 55:d3 (Frankfurt/Hamburg)
Ouverture – Menuet I/II – Gavotte – Courante – Air –
Loure – Hornpipe – Canaries – Gigue

Join us for Bach: Keeping it in the Family at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre from April 5–9, 2017. Tickets are available here.

Behind the Musik: The Baroque Diva

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By Christopher Verrette

Opera was an invention of baroque Italy, and while other regions would create their own styles, opera sung in Italian would continue to be enjoyed in many cities and courts throughout Europe, including Dresden, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and London. George Frideric Handel began to present his Italian operas in London in 1711, and personally recruited singers from Italy for the task. These singers became celebrities in their new home. Contemporary accounts of these artists describe not only their voices, but also their manner on stage, and (sometimes unfavourably) their “person” or relative physical beauty. Rivalry among the singers could become quite public, with their respective fans creating disturbances during performances.

The “degrees of separation” between the various composers on this program are slight indeed. Georg Philipp Telemann holds the Guinness world record (posthumously!) for the most prolific composer of all time, at least on the basis of the sheer number of pieces he wrote. He also seems to have been one of the best-connected composers of his time. From his chosen city of Hamburg he had extensive reach. He wrote music for other courts, was involved in music education, publishing, and early copyright matters, took interest in ethnic styles of music, and corresponded regularly with many other composers and theorists, including his lifelong friend, Handel.

Another of his friends and correspondents was the extraordinary violinist Johann Georg Pisendel, a pivotal figure in music in the eighteenth century. A leading violinist with the famed Dresden Kapelle, many distinguished composers dedicated music to him, including Telemann, Albinoni, and Vivaldi. There are also strong connections between Pisendel and the Bach family. It was in fact Pisendel who brought to the attention of Telemann (also an accomplished poet) that he should eulogize the recently deceased Bach. Telemann responded with an ode, as he would for Pisendel himself some years later.

Pisendel met the violin virtuoso, composer, and priest Antonio Vivaldi while travelling in Venice with the ensemble of the crown prince of Saxony. While it is often said that he studied with Vivaldi, the relationship seems more likely to have been an opportune meeting between two peers with genuine respect for one another. He did not otherwise have the easiest visit to Italy: jealous violinists in the orchestra tried to sabotage his first solo appearance, which he survived by keeping his cool and beating his foot. On another occasion he was detained by authorities in St Mark’s Square in an apparent case of mistaken identity, and it was Vivaldi himself who negotiated his release.

Telemann Concerto in A Major

Telemann’s A-Major Concerto includes some virtuoso passagework that may reflect his knowledge of Pisendel’s style, but the dominating feature of the work is its imitation of the peeping of frogs. The soloist initiates this, after the opening tutti, with an effect called bariolage, an alternation of an open string with a fingered note on the same pitch. This figure is elaborated and imitated, and soon we hear a whole chorus of frogs that the composer takes through some extended and unexpected harmonic sequences. In the second movement we hear the frog once more before the violin embarks upon a cantabile melody, but the frogs can still be heard in the viola part at times. The concerto concludes with an elegant minuet and no further amphibian interference.

Handel Ezio

(c) The Foundling Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Handel’s Ezio had all the ingredients to be a commercial success: an excellent cast of singers, a libretto by Metastasio, and all new sets and costumes (a relative rarity), but it only lasted for five poorly attended performances at the King’s Theatre in January, 1732, although the king himself attended all but one. Its female lead was the soprano Anna Maria Strada (pictured right) as Fulvia, a woman trapped between rival lovers and the murderous machinations of her own father. “Il mio costanza” comes in Act II, when she admits in front of the emperor Valentinian, who wishes to marry her, that she is in fact in love with the General Ezio, who has just been arrested (erroneously) for an attempt on the emperor’s life. Strada was part of a second wave of talented singers imported by Handel to rebuild his company after a bankruptcy. While her singing was admired, she was criticized for her appearance and the faces she made while singing, earning her the nickname “the pig.”

Telemann Concerto in D Minor

In the D-Minor Concerto, Telemann puts into opposition a wind trio of oboes and bassoon and a string group. In the first movement, they mostly play together in similar rhythm, like a big choir, but in the fast movements the two groups rarely play at the same time, as if in conversation.

Vivaldi Motet “O qui coeli”

Vivaldi is mostly associated with the city of Venice and the solo violin concerto, but he became increasingly interested in opera over the course of his career, and this would take him to other cities such as Rome, where his operas were presented during carnival in both 1723 and 1724. At this time he came into contact with Cardinal Ottoboni, a member of one of the wealthy families that employed many of the best musicians, including Handel at one time. The motet “O qui coeli” was probably written for Ottoboni. Perhaps it was intended for one of the singers who also performed his operas. The text calls upon the listeners to turn their eyes from the transient attractions of the earthly to the eternal promises of the heavenly.

PIsendel Sonata da chiesa

Instrumental music was used widely in church to support and sometimes even replace parts of the liturgy. While noted as a virtuoso, Pisendel shows in the Sonata da chiesa (church sonata) that he can compose with disciplined contrapuntal technique. The austere five-note subject of the second movement is typical of this style.

Handel Alcina

In 1733, Handel lost most of his singers to a rival company. Anna Maria Strada stayed though, and in 1735 played the title role in one of greatest successes, Alcina. This sorceress is one of his most captivating characters, in more ways than one: she keeps people prisoners on her enchanted island in the form of rocks, trees, animals, and some as spellbound lovers. Her demise comes when she falls in love with Ruggiero: he escapes her spell and she loses her powers. She sings “Ah, mio cor” upon the realization that she has been deceived and deserted, powerfully expressed through her unaccompanied entrance. In the middle section, she breaks out of her despair just long enough to swear vengeance if he does not return.

Pisendel Concerto da chiesa

The G-Minor Concerto reveals Pisendel’s considerable talents as both a violinist and composer. The intricate high passagework for the solo violinist is typical of his style, but he was highly regarded for his performance of slow movements. The fugal opening of the last movement is unusual in a solo concerto.

Handel Rodelinda

The role of Rodelinda was originated in 1725 by Francesca Cuzzoni (pictured right), one of the notorious rival sopranos in Handel’s troupe. “Mio caro bene” is the final aria of the opera, when Rodelinda is joyfully reunited with her husband, who had been exiled and believed dead. According to Horace Walpole, her performance was upstaged by her costume, which apparently scandalized the older audience but was adopted by the young as the height of fashion.

© C. Verrette 2017

Note about Entwined, by the composer

Over the next year, Canada will see numerous celebrations as part of the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Canada certainly has much to celebrate, but it’s important to me that these celebrations don’t come without acknowledging the darker parts of our past, especially the treatment of Indigenous peoples in our country. We have taken important steps in recent years — Canada 150, for its part, has made reconciliation one of its four main themes. But I feel strongly that these steps need to be seen in the context of ongoing systemic discrimination.

Canada as a country is only 150 years old, but the shared history between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples goes back much farther. The interwoven layers of Entwined are meant to suggest how our stories are (and will continue to be) diverse yet deeply connected, and how we all have a role to play in reconciliation.

As a composer, Colin Labadie writes notably un-classical music for classical instruments. Through simple patterning and subtle variation, he seeks to build intricate yet clear structures and sounds. As a performer, he does exactly the opposite: he creates noisy and chaotic textures, usually with mutant guitars or homemade circuits. He often roots around in thrift stores, hunting for odd sounds in the world of forgotten electronics. Colin currently lives in Kitchener-Waterloo. He has been fortunate enough to perform or have his work performed across Canada, as well as in many non-Canadian countries. When he isn’t listening to music, he can usually be found trying to sniff out a good barbecue joint.


Directed by Rodolfo Richter, violin
March 23–26, 2017, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning

Entwined: Sesquie for Canada’s 150th
World premiere: written for Tafelmusik and commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for the 150th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

Concerto for violin in A Major, “The Frog” (Frankfurt, c.1718)

Aria “La mia costanza,” from Ezio (London, 1732)

Concerto in D Minor, TWV 53:d1 (Hamburg)

Motet “O qui coeli terraeque serenitas,” RV 631 (Rome, 1723/24)


Sonata da chiesa in C Minor (Dresden, c.1721–23)

Aria “Ah, mio cor,” from Alcina (London, 1735)

Concerto da chiesa in G Minor (Dresden, c.1720–25)
Largo e staccato/Allegro

Aria “Mio caro bene,” from Rodelinda (London, 1725)

Karina Gauvin’s appearance with Tafelmusik is generously sponsored by
John & Margaret Catto.

Colin Labadie commission funded by / financé par:




Join us for The Baroque Diva at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre from
March 23—26, 2017. Tickets are available here.

Behind the Musik: Visions & Voyages

Here are the official program notes for Visions & Voyages

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

By Alison Mackay

Visions and Voyages is Tafelmusik’s contribution to the national activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation in 1867. In order to feature some of the most beautiful music in our core repertoire, we have chosen to explore the century between 1663, when Quebec was established by Louis XIV as a royal province of France, and 1763, when North America came under the control of the British crown.

A new & accurate map of the islands of Newfoundland, Cape Breton, St. John and Anticosta; together with the neighbouring countries of Nova Scotia, Canada, &c. Emanuel Bowen [London, W. Innys, 1752]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C.
A new & accurate map of the islands of Newfoundland, Cape Breton, St. John and Anticosta; together with the neighbouring countries of Nova Scotia, Canada, &c. Emanuel Bowen [London, W. Innys, 1752]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C.
This century saw the flowering of secular music by Purcell, Handel, Lully, Marais, and Rameau, much of it written for monarchs who gained prosperity and prestige from their Canadian colonies. Instrumental works by these composers provide the musical portion of Visions and Voyages.

Diaries, letters, archival records, ships’ manifests, account books, and religious mission reports called “Relations” provide rich details about life in Canada at this time, and much of the material for the spoken narration of the concert is taken from them. These sources often reveal a dark picture of European attitudes to the first inhabitants of Canada, and set the stage for the crushing of Native cultures and the establishment of residential schools which came with Confederation and the establishment of the Indian Act.

visions-program-notes-ruffo-croppedSeeking an expression of life in Canada before European contact, we have turned to the beautiful writing of the poet and scholar Armand Garnet Ruffo (photo, left), a band member of the Fox Lake Chapleau Cree First Nation and a citizen of the Ojibwe nation. Prof. Ruffo teaches at Queen’s University, where he is Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous literature, and we are deeply grateful for his permission to use an excerpt from his poem Old Story.

To represent the exhilarating artistic currents in the Native communities of Canada, we have engaged two of its most exciting young artists, narrator Ryan Cunningham (Artistic Director of Native Earth Theatre Company), and dancer and choreographer Brian Solomon, the creator of two new works set to the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau.

After a portrait of the centuries-old communities living in the territory before European contact, the first half of the concert is devoted to life in New France and to music by French composers. These particular works have never been performed by Tafelmusik before, and include excerpts from the opera Sémélé, by Marin Marais, viola da gamba virtuoso and director of the Paris Opera from 1705 until 1709. Like Handel’s oratorio of the same name, the opera is based on the story of Jupiter and Semele from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. One of the most colourful movements is a musical depiction of an earthquake, used in our performance to accompany a seventeenth-century account of the great Charlevoix earthquake of 1663, which had its epicentre in Trois-Rivières and was felt in much of eastern North America.

visions-program-notes-posen-croppedThe stunning images which are projected during the musical earthquake are the work of the Canadian landscape and architectural photographer, Simeon Posen (photo, left), whose photographs are held in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery in Ottawa, and Gallery Arcturus in Toronto. Preferring the subtlety of black and white, Mr. Posen works with large- and mid-size negative formats, hand-developing the film materials and printing on silver fibre-based papers. We are immensely grateful for his generous sharing of works from his Water portfolio.

The dramatic Charlevoix earthquake was followed a month later by a seismic event in the governance of Canada. Louis XIV dissolved the “Company of New France,” an association of 100 investors who had been granted a monopoly over the fur trade and settlement of the colony in 1627, and declared Quebec to be a royal province under the direct authority of the crown. The architect of the new province was the powerful finance minister of France, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who organized every aspect of French official life to magnify the glory of the young king.

Hoping to increase the French population of the new province in order to foster stability and create a Canadian market for goods manufactured in France, Colbert embarked in 1663 on a ten-year program of recruitment of young women for emigration to Quebec. They became known as “the daughters of the king” (les Filles du Roi), and many Québecois can trace their lineage to these 800 foremothers (as can Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and Madonna!).

Vue de Quebec, capitale du Canada. Georges-Louis Le Rouge [Paris, 1755]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.
Vue de Quebec, capitale du Canada. Georges-Louis Le Rouge [Paris, 1755]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.
In order to foster and exert control over culture, scholarship, and manufacturing, Colbert established the Academy of Sciences, the Paris Observatory, the Gobelins Tapestry works, a Royal Factory for the manufacture of glass and mirrors, and a Royal Academy of Music which soon came under the direction of the Italian-born dancer and composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully.

The theatre of the Palais-Royal, home of the Paris Opera at this time, received a major renovation in 1674, and the work chosen for the grand opening of the new hall was Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Alceste, composed in honour of a recent military victory of Louis XIV. Dancing was extremely important in French opera at this time, leaving us with a treasure trove of instrumental music from each of Lully’s theatrical works, including the overture and the dance movements which appear throughout the work.

Dance theorists from Lully’s time divided dances for music theatre into two categories. One type of dance used codified steps and geometric patterns combined in various ways to create new choreographies for the standard minuets, gavottes, and sarabandes which provided moments of music reflection or energetic activity in the unfolding drama of the opera.

Another type of dance was called “expressive” or “imitative,” using newly created movements to imitate the motions of a hammering blacksmith or a rowing boatman. It is known that on several occasions Lully took these special dances away from the more conventional choreographers he normally used. For the chaconne depicting the planting of a palm tree in the middle of the stage in his opera Cadmus & Hermione, for instance, he himself created the steps and figures for the solo dancer and eight men from the corps de ballet. The dance commentator Abbé Dubos, who was intimately acquainted with Lully’s practice, reports that some dances were like “choruses without words,” i.e. dances without formal steps, using movement and gestures to portray strong emotions such as grief. He particularly cites the funeral procession from Alceste, which is performed in our concert to accompany the description of the funeral procession of the famous Huron-Wendat leader and orator Kondiaronck, who died in 1701 during the largest diplomatic gathering in the history of early Canada, the Great Peace of Montreal. At the close of the peace conference, for which a special theatre was built, 1,300 native delegates representing 40 First Nations joined in ceremonial dances and songs with the French delegates. A bonfire was lit and a great ceremonial feast was shared by all.

A contemporary account of the event also describes the performance of a Te Deum, the ancient church hymn which was given elaborate musical settings by many baroque composers and was often performed during special celebrations. Jean-Baptiste Lully, for instance, composed a Te Deum to celebrate the recovery from surgery of Louis XIV (though the composer tragically died from gangrene after stabbing his foot while conducting the work). The Te Deum in D Major composed by Lully’s contemporary, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, is thought to have been composed in celebration of the French victory over William of Orange at the Battle of Steinkirk in 1692. The lively instrumental prelude, which ends the first half of the concert, has become famous today as theme music for programs on broadcasts of the European Broadcast Union.

Across the channel, England had staked its own claim for large portions of Canadian territory in 1670, when Charles II granted rights over fur trading and mining to his cousin Prince Rupert and “The Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay.” Seeking both the North-West Passage and the higher grades of fur which came from animals living in colder climates, the new company established trading posts at the mouths of the six major rivers flowing into Hudson’s Bay. British ships picked up bales of beaver pelts once a year for the making of felt hats, which had been fashionable since the sixteenth century and were now a necessity for the well-dressed businessmen, soldiers, and aristocrats of Europe.

Three-cornered beaver hat, pictured in Philippe Mercier, Sir Edward Hales, 1744, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Three-cornered beaver hat, pictured in Philippe Mercier, Sir Edward Hales, 1744, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Louis XIV had established a particular fashion for a beaver hat with the brim folded back on three sides and the three-cornered hat was soon being worn across the channel in England. There it was known as the “cocked beaver,” celebrated in music with the popular fiddle tune “Johnny cock thy beaver.” The second half of the concert features a set of variations for violin and continuo on this tune, published in 1685 in John Playford’s collection The Division Violin.

Playford and his son Henry, who ran a music shop located in the Inner Temple area of London and frequented by Samuel Pepys, were the most important music publishers in Restoration England. They enjoyed a close relationship with Henry Purcell, and published many of the works composed for the Stuart monarchs who presided over the English colonization of Canada at this time. The second half of the concert begins with the overture (called a “Symphony”) to Come ye sons of art, the ode which William of Orange, now William III of England, commissioned from Purcell to celebrate the birthday of his wife Queen Mary in 1694. The short symphony is composed in three parts; a stately opening followed by a lively canzona, and a final adagio full of striking dissonances and soulful chord progressions which provide a fitting prelude to the recitation of names of Indigenous communities around Hudson’s Bay, soon to be dominated by English colonists.

The founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company complicated the balance of power among the various constituencies in Canada, and as the decades passed, the British crown looked for ways to cement alliances against the French. In February of 1710, four influential representatives of the Iroquois confederacy (one of them the grandfather of Joseph Brant, founder of the city of Brantford) were invited to visit London at the expense of Queen Anne, who had ascended the British throne after the death of William of Orange. The visit of the ambassadors caused
a sensation in London, and the political and cultural activities of their visit were recorded in newspaper accounts and in a 53-page book published in 1710 called The Four Kings of Canada. After their four-week crossing of the Atlantic they were lodged at an inn called the Two Crowns and Cushions, owned by the upholsterer Thomas Arne. (His son would become the composer Thomas Arne, and his daughter Susannah would become one of Handel’s favourite singers, Mrs. Cibber, for whom he composed the contralto arias in Messiah.)

On April 19, the four visitors were brought from their lodgings by coach to the Palace of St. James for an audience with Queen Anne. They addressed the Queen at length through an interpreter about various political issues, and presented her with a wampum belt. She commanded that the guests be shown the city, and they were taken by barge to Greenwich, where they inspected the astronomical instruments at the Royal Observatory. They dined with the Archbishop of Canterbury, visited the Tower of London, and were taken to St. Paul’s Cathedral to inspect the dome, which was under construction at the time.

They were also invited to various cultural events, including a performance of Macbeth at which the audience refused to let the play begin until the Canadian kings were seated on the stage for all to see. The newspaper announced a special performance in their honour of William Congreve’s The Old Bachelor, a play for which Henry Purcell had composed an overture and nine movements of instrumental music in 1693. After Purcell’s untimely death at the age of 35 in 1695, several important posthumous editions of his works appeared, including a large anthology of orchestral music published by his widow Frances in 1697. This was the first printed collection devoted exclusively to incidental music for the English stage. Titled A Collection of Ayres composed for the Theatre, it contained suites of overtures, song tunes, and dance movements, including the movements on our program from The Old Bachelor and King Arthur, music that could have been performed in concert versions for the Four Kings of Canada in 1710.

1710 was also the year of the first visit to London of George Frideric Handel, who throughout his life was a great admirer of Purcell’s music. Handel’s first opera for the London stage, Rinaldo, was an immediate success, and he soon entered the employ of Queen Anne and settled in England for the rest of his life. He went on to serve the first two Hanoverian kings: George I, for whom Water Music was written, and George II, for whose coronation Handel composed Zadok the Priest, which has since been used in every English coronation. In 1719 Handel was appointed “Master of the Orchestra” of the Royal Academy of Music, London’s first opera company, and in the following years he composed 31 operas with Italian texts. Scipione, composed in 1726, contains the march now famous as the regimental march of the Grenadier Guards.

The London public began to cool towards Italian opera in the 1740s and Handel began to favour English-language oratorios: works which were less expensive to produce since they didn’t use sets or costumes, but nevertheless provided a stage for Handel’s brilliant dramatic flair. Israel in Egypt (1739) opens with a solemn “symphony” expressing grief over the death of the patriarch Joseph. The music, which is adapted from the 1737 funeral anthem for Queen Caroline, illustrates Handel’s custom of reworking old material for a new context, and we have used it to express a lamentation over the language used by Nicholas Flood Davin in his recommendation of “aggressive civilization,” which laid the groundwork for the establishment of residential schools in Canada.

The Grande Entrée from Alceste (1750) represents yet another type of Handel’s theatrical activity, for it is one of 20 pieces of incidental music composed for a lost play by the Scottish author Tobias Smollett. The rising rockets of sound in the oboes and violins are an unusual effect in the regal processional music which we use to bring King George III on to the scene in our concert, bringing our century of music and Canadian history to a close. Although he came to the throne a year after the composer’s death, the king loved Handel’s music, finding great solace in later life when recovering from bouts of his terrible illness, porphyria, in playing Handel’s music on the harpsichord.

One of George III’s first duties at the beginning of his reign was to oversee Britain’s claim to North America after the end of the Seven Years War. His Royal Proclamation of 1763 set out guidelines for the settlement of Aboriginal lands, explicitly recognizing Aboriginal rights and land titles, and stating that all territory would be considered Aboriginal until ceded by treaty. Though the proclamation has been contravened many times, it is enshrined in Section 25 of the Canadian Constitution, and is still used in treaty negotiation and litigation today.

The final section of the concert is devoted to a weaving together of Armand Garnet Ruffo’s poetry, Brian Solomon’s choreography, and one of the most exquisite pieces of music by Jean-Philippe Rameau, the Entrée of Polyhymnia, the muse of sacred poetry and dance, from the opera Les Boréades. This work was in rehearsal in April of 1763, the final year of our century, when the Palais-Royal theatre burned down. The music, not known to have been performed in Rameau’s lifetime, seems to express perfectly the longing for the vision referred to in the title of our concert — the dream for a better path on which to move forward together as we embark on Canada’s next 150 years.

© A. Mackay 2017

Please go to the Tafelmusik website to see a list of images projected during the concert:

We are grateful to the National Film Board of Canada for permission to use excerpts from Bernard Gosselin’s 1971 film César’s Bark Canoe.

The Tafelmusik Canadian Fiddle Tunes Project

On Sunday, February 26th, between 5:30 and 6:00, immediately after our final performance of Visions and Voyages, the orchestra will be joined onstage by 25 young violinists from Etobicoke School for the Arts and The Suzuki Program at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. For several months the students have been working on eight old fiddle tunes: five from the historical fiddling traditions of French, Scottish, and Aboriginal communities in Canada, and three from sources in Tafelmusik’s repertoire. Canadian fiddle expert Anne Lederman and Tafelmusik’s own Christopher Verrette have joined teachers Gretchen Paxson-Abberger, Rebecca Sancton-Ashworth, and Pamela Bettger in working with the students. Please join us for this short performance demonstrating their hard work in contributing to the activities of Canada 150.


Conceived, programmed, and scripted by Alison Mackay
Ryan Cunningham, narrator
Brian Solomon, dancer & choreographer
Glenn Davidson, lighting designer
Raha Javanfar, Projections Designer

February 22–26, 2017, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

MARIN MARAIS 1656–1728
Air pour les Thebains et Thebaines – Air pour les Guerriers – Passepieds en musette

Chaconne in F Major for solo harpsichord

Chaconne – 3e air pour les Thebains et Thebaines – Tremblement de terre [Earthquake]

Marche des combattans  – Rondeau pour la fête marine – Loure pour les pêcheurs – Pompe funèbre

Prelude to Te Deum, H.146

Come ye Sons of Art: Symphony
King Arthur: Trumpet tune
Dido & Aeneas: Triumphing dance
The Old Bachelor: March
King Arthur: Chaconne

La Bourse: Ouverture

Johnny cock thy beaver (from The Division Violin)

Alceste: Grande Entrée
Concerto Grosso in D op. 3, no. 6: Allegro
Scipione: March
Israel in Egypt: Symphony

ROBERT DE VISÉE 1655–1732/33
Prelude in G Major, for solo lute

Les Boréades: Entrée de Polymnie
Pygmalion: Contredanse

Visions & Voyages is generously supported by The Pluralism Fund, and by a gift from an anonymous benefactor.

Production Sponsor:




Edition of Marais Sémélé: Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles

Join us for Visions and Voyages from February 22—26, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

Behind the Musik: A Bach Tapestry

Here are the official program notes for A Bach Tapestry

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

By Ivars Taurins

When art galleries present comprehensive exhibitions focusing on a particular artist, we are given the rare and wonderful opportunity to explore and experience that artist through the variety of their techniques, and the development of their expression. Recent exhibitions at the AGO of Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, Turner, Michelangelo, or Monet have allowed us a vastly different perspective on these artists and their work than could be gained by viewing just one or two iconic works.

If we consider the mind-staggering output by Johann Sebastian Bach of over 200 cantatas in a 40-year period, we quickly realize that we are familiar with only a handful of them. This is in no part due to their quality — on the contrary, the variety of compositional styles, techniques, invention, and effects is a veritable compendium of everything that can be done within that form. But we creatures of habit tend to gravitate again and again to the most familiar, the most “popular” and iconic works of any composer. On the other hand, we can only have the opportunity to experience these works as a whole if we partake in the kind of pilgrimage that John Eliot Gardiner undertook in 2000, performing all of Bach’s cantatas on a year-long tour that took his musicians throughout Europe, Britain, and even further afield to New York.

With all of this in mind, I have attempted in curating this Bach Tapestry to present Bach’s mastery and genius as a composer by creating an aural gallery of choral movements from his cantatas — many of them rarely heard in concert — and to complement these choruses by interweaving secular instrumental works. We also explore how Bach reused and refashioned his compositions to create new, equally vibrant works, represented in our Bach “gallery” by selections from his Lutheran Mass in G Major, comprised of his reworkings of earlier cantata movements. In this spirit, we have also taken the liberty to refashion Bach’s famous Italian Concerto, originally written for solo harpsichord, to create a “new” concerto for strings.

I hope that our Bach Tapestry will inspire you to further explore for yourselves the remarkable riches to be found in Bach’s oeuvre.

As a young man Bach had transcribed many of Vivaldi’s string concertos for solo keyboard. Many years later he published an “Italian Concerto” for solo harpsichord, very much in the style of those early transcriptions. We complete the circle by reimagining the work as concerto for strings, in the style of Vivaldi, and the spirit of Bach.
As a young man Bach had transcribed many of Vivaldi’s string concertos for solo keyboard. Many years later he published an “Italian Concerto” for solo harpsichord, very much in the style of those early transcriptions. We complete the circle by reimagining the work as concerto for strings, in the style of Vivaldi, and the spirit of Bach.


The aim and fundamental reason of all music is none other than to be to the glory of God and the recreation of the spirit.
Johann Sebastian Bach

I need Bach at the beginning of the day almost more than I need food and water.
Pablo Casals

The true spirit of the art is what led him to the great and sublime as the highest object of the art. We owe it to this spirit that Bach’s works do not merely please and delight, like what is merely agreeable in art, but irresistibly carry us away with them; that they do not merely surprise us for a moment, but produce effects that become stronger the more often we hear the works, and the better we become acquainted with them; that the boundless treasure of ideas heaped up in them, even when we have a thousand times considered them, still leaves us something new, which excites our admiration, and often our astonishment; lastly, that even he who is no connoisseur, who knows no more than the musical alphabet, can hardly refrain from admiration when they are well played to him and when he opens his ear and heart to them without prejudice.
Johann Nikolaus Forkel, first biographer of J.S. Bach, from the chapter in the biography, dated 1802, entitled “The Spirit of Bach”

The great J. Seb. Bach used to say: “it must be possible to do anything.” And he would never stand to hear of anything not being feasible. This has always inspired me, with my slight abilities, to accomplish many otherwise difficult things in music, with effort and patience.
Johann Philipp Kirnberger (student of Bach)

Not Brook but Ocean should be his name.
Ludwig van Beethoven [“Bach” in German means “brook”]

In response to hearing Mendelssohn perform Bach:
Again I thought how we are never at an end with Bach, how he seems to grow more profound the oftener he is heard. […] While we listen, it would seem again as if we could only distantly approach him through the understanding of words. The music itself still serves as the best means to bring his works before our senses and to explain them.

Robert Schumann

[Bach is] one of God’s phenomena, clear, but unfathomable.
Carl Friedrich Zelter (teacher of Mendelssohn)

Study Bach: there you will find everything.
Johannes Brahms

I think that if I were required to spend the rest of my life on a desert island, and to listen to or play the music of any one composer during all that time, that composer would almost certainly be Bach. I really can’t think of any other music which is so all-encompassing, which moves me so deeply and so consistently, and which, to use a rather imprecise word, is valuable beyond all of its skill and brilliance for something more meaningful than that—its humanity.
Glenn Gould

 Bach was a top harmonist geezer, which is why the jazz cats love him.
Nigel Kennedy, violinst

 Compared with him, we all remain children.
variously attributed to Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

 Bach is not about beauty, it’s about honesty.
Anner Bylsma, cellist


Directed by Ivars Taurins


Chorus “Sei Lob und Ehr” from Cantata 117
Chorus “Aller augen warten” from Cantata 23

Adagio e dolce, for 2 violins & continuo, after BWV 527/2
Geneviève Gilardeau & Christopher Verrette, violins
Allen Whear & Charlotte Nediger, continuo
Chorus “Christum wir wollen loben” from Cantata 121
Chorus “Ihr werdet weinen” from Cantata 103

Sarabande for solo harpsichord, BWV 816
Charlotte Nediger, harpsichord
Kyrie & Gloria, from Mass in G Major, BWV 236
Chorale “Jesu, bleibet meine Freude” from Cantata 147


Chorus “Ach, Gott, wie manches Herzeleid” from Cantata 3

Italian Concerto, after BWV 971
Allegro – Andante – Presto
Julia Wedman & Patricia Ahern, violin soloists

Chorale “Christe, du Lamm Gottes” from Cantata 23
Chorale “Verleih uns Frieden” from Cantata 42
Chorale “Wer hofft” from Cantata 109

Sinfonia to Cantata 196
Chorus “Und wenn die Welt” from Cantata 80
Cum sancto spiritu, from Mass in G Major, BWV 236

Join us for A Bach Tapestry at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.

Behind the Musik: Intimate German Baroque

Here are the official program notes for Intimate German Baroque

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

Peter Harvey, baritone; Jeanne Lamon & Julia Wedman, violin; Thomas Georgi & Patrick Jordan, viola; Christina Mahler, cello; Alison Mackay, violone & double bass; John Abberger, oboe; Dominic Teresi, dulcian; Lucas Harris, lute; Charlotte Nediger, organ.

By Charlotte Nediger

In programming our seasons, we often find ourselves turning to more intimate repertoire for our January concerts, an instinctive desire, perhaps, to warm up cold January evenings and Sunday afternoons with a cozy gathering of musicians and listeners. This season is no exception, as we invite British baritone Peter Harvey to join us in an exploration of rarely heard works written in the seventeenth century in German-speaking lands: both the Protestant north, and the Catholic south. As the concert includes works by two of J.S. Bach’s principal mentors, Buxtehude and Johann Christoph Bach, we could not resist looking forward, so end the program with J.S. Bach’s beautiful Cantata 82.

Biber Sonatas

Engraving of Biber by Paulus Seel, from the 1681 publication of Biber's Violin Sonatas.
Engraving of Biber by Paulus Seel, from the
1681 publication of Biber’s Violin Sonatas.

In a concert that combines the secular and sacred, it is appropriate that we open with a sonata for strings from Biber’s collection Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum, meaning “Sacred and profane fiddle music.” Two violins are in dialogue with two violas and continuo in a sonata that melds elements of the Italianate church sonata with courtly dance music. Heinrich Biber held positions at the archiepiscopal courts of Olmütz and Kremsier before assuming the post of Kapellmeister and eventually Lord High Steward to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. His accomplishments were acknowledged by Leopold I with his ennoblement in 1690.

Biber is credited with advancing the art of playing and composing for the violin to a height previously unknown north of Italy. The eighteenth-century music historian Charles Burney wrote “of all the violin players of the last century Biber seems to have been the best, and his solos are the most difficult and most fanciful of any music I have seen of the same period.” His violin sonatas are marked by virtuoso passagework, both in unmeasured passages and over ostinato basses, and by extensive use of double-stops (playing on two strings at once) and chords. The Third Sonata from his 1681 collection is typical. The opening prelude alternates free passages over long held notes in the bass with quick, almost bell-like, passages of double-stops. This is followed by a simple aria with two variations. A long unmeasured passage of remarkable virtuosity leads to a chaconne built over just four repeating bass notes, the last variations of which inspire an arresting ending.

Buxtehude Cantata
Born in Denmark, Dietrich Buxtehude spent most of his working life in Lübeck as
organist and Kapellmeister of the Marienkirche in Lübeck. He was also appointed
Werkmeister, a post encompassing the duties of secretary, treasurer, and business
manager of the church, and directed an annual series of concerts at the church called “Abendmusik.” His extant music includes a large quantity of keyboard music, chamber sonatas, and some 125 cantatas. The cantata “Mein Herz ist bereit” is a setting of Psalm 57 for solo bass voice, accompanied by three violins, violone, and continuo. At the midpoint there is a particularly delightful imitation of the psaltery and harp called upon to awake the soul. Buxtehude’s influence on North German composers was widespread: famously, the 20-year-old J.S. Bach took a month’s leave from his job as organist in Arnstadt and walked 400 kilometres to Lübeck to meet the Danish master.

Böddecker Sonata
The bassoonist, organist, and composer Philipp Friedrich Böddecker was born in Alsace to a family of musicians. He held posts in various cities in Germany and France, eventually settling in Stuttgart as organist at the collegiate church and teacher at the college. A handful of sacred works survive, as well as two virtuoso sonatas, one for violin and one for dulcian (the precursor of the bassoon). The latter is a stunning set of variations on a tune popular throughout Europe from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. The title is drawn from the text associated with the tune in Italy: “Madre non me far monaca” (Mother, don’t make me become a nun). In Germany the tune came to be used as a chorale, and as such is the basis of a famous organ chorale by J.S. Bach, “Von Gott will ich nicht lassen,” BWV 658. In the Böddecker variations you will hear a violinist play the tune, first on its own, and then above increasingly florid variations played on the dulcian.

J. Ch. Bach Lamento
A first cousin and close friend of Johann Sebastian Bach’s father, Johann Christoph Bach is thought to have had a great influence on the young Johann Sebastian, probably taking on much of his musical instruction upon the death of Sebastian’s father when Sebastian was just ten years old. Some years later Sebastian assembled the Altbachisches Archiv, a collection of works by his ancestors, and included several works by his mentor. Sebastian described him as a “profound composer […] as good at inventing beautiful thoughts as he was at expressing words.” Among the works in the Archiv are two remarkable laments, one for solo alto and the other for solo bass, both accompanied by solo violin and a consort of violas and continuo. They are passionate settings of potent texts, demanding much artistry of the singer and of the solo violinist, and leave a deep impression on performers and listeners alike.

J. S. Bach Cantata 82
The Cantata “Ich habe genug” was written by J.S. Bach for the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, the last of the feasts of the Christmas season, also known as Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and in the Catholic Church as the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. It is celebrated on or around the 2nd of February; “Ich habe genug” was first performed on that date in 1727. The author of the text is not known, but it is based on the Gospel story of Simeon at the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth (St. Luke, chapter 2): “And it was revealed unto him [Simeon] by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.’ ” The story inspired Bach to set the middle movement as a lullaby, and his wife Anna Magdalena included this movement in the notebook she prepared for her own use, and for use with her children. The cantata is one of the most famous of Bach’s cantatas for solo voice, and one that was performed several times during Bach’s tenure at Leipzig. Originally written as we are performing it this week, for solo bass voice with obbligato oboe, Bach also left versions for soprano and flute, and for alto and oboe.


Peter Harvey, baritone
Jeanne Lamon & Julia Wedman, violin
Thomas Georgi, violin & viola
Patrick G. Jordan, viola
Christina Mahler, cello
Alison Mackay, violone & double bass
John Abberger, oboe
Dominic Teresi, dulcian
Lucas Harris, lute
Charlotte Nediger, organ

Jan 19-22, 2017, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

H.I.F. VON BIBER 1644–1704
Sonata no. 1 from Fidicinium sacro-profanum (Nuremberg, c.1683)

Cantata “Mein Herz ist bereit” (Lübeck, c.1680)

Sonata sopra La Monica, from Sacra Partitura (Straßburg, 1651)

Lamento “Wie bist du denn, O Gott?” (Eisenach, late 17th century)


Sonata no. 3 for violin & continuo (Nuremberg, 1681)

J.S. BACH 1685–1750
Cantata 82 “Ich habe genug” (Leipzig, 1727)

Join us for Intimate German Baroque, January 19-22 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.