My Journey with Bach

By John Abberger, oboe

I have always been fascinated with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. With music loving parents, I probably heard his music as a small child. I remember the moment when I became absolutely captivated by one of his compositions as a youth. How does he do it? How does his music reach so deep inside us, and how does it have such an uncanny ability to express so profoundly what it is to be human? Performing Bach’s music has been a touchstone of my career as a musician. It’s almost as if I set out on a journey (without realizing it as such) to try to understand Bach’s music deeply, and to communicate this understanding to an audience by performing these compositions to the best of my ability.

Over the course of my forty-year career I have learned that the more you give of yourself to Bach’s music the more it gives back. My love and fascination for Bach’s music led me, in my early days as a professional, to the period instrument movement and the study of historical performance practice. This was a revelation for me. Performing Bach’s music on an oboe that at least resembles one he would have recognized, and understanding in some small way the performance practices and modes of expression that were part of his musical language has vastly increased my appreciation for the expert craft with which his compositions are created.

Musicians of Toronto Bach Festival

Bach wrote a quite a lot of music, and his music is performed the world over by many fine music organizations. But an organization devoted to the performance of music by many composers from many centuries cannot perform more than a small number of his compositions with any regularity. A Bach Festival, on the other hand, exists to focus the attention of its audience only on Bach’s music. The Toronto Bach Festival takes as its mission the goal of increasing and deepening our collective understanding of Bach’s art. This includes:

  • performing all of his music, to broaden our experience of his art.
  • performing music by his predecessors to provide some understanding of the traditions within which he worked.
  • performing music by composers whose works were profoundly influenced by his music.

With each iteration of the festival I want to enrich our audience’s experience of Bach’s music. I want to show you the incredible delights of his keyboard music, in many ways Bach’s most personal music. I want to celebrate with you the joys of the instrumental music, both chamber and orchestral. And I want you to experience the wonders of his choral works, much of which you have never heard before.

As I have matured as a musician the depth of my appreciation for Bach’s music has grown considerably. I have come to understand in great detail how Bach uses the harmonic language of his time with such expressiveness. I have learned how he used the musical structures of his time so effectively. I have learned how he set the texts of his vocal works with such amazing clarity. But when all is said and done, I feel I am no closer to explaining how he does it, how he speaks to the innermost core of our being with such devastating insight. This, to me, is the essence of Art: to use the materials at hand to create something that adds up to far, far more than the sum of its parts.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performing The Circle of Creation with a portrait of Bach on a screen.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performing “J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation.” Photo by Glenn Davidson

What was that performance that captivated me as a youth? A performance at a Bach festival in the area where I grew up, the Bach Festival of Winter Park, one of the oldest Bach festivals in North America. (In the Orlando area, Winter Park is the equivalent of North York in Toronto.)

One could say (with only a bit of hyperbole) that my experience at this performance set me on my path as a musician. I continued to study music and the oboe in high school, at university in Louisiana, and in graduate school at the Juilliard School in New York. It was only after I left school that I discovered the period oboe, and I immediately realized that the period instrument field is a direct avenue to performing lots of Bach. Immersing myself in the study of historical performance has also provided me with crucial insights into a foundational understanding of the best way to perform his music.

I feel fortunate to have ended up in Canada and Toronto where music is held in such high regard. Perhaps there will be a youth sitting in the audience at one of our concerts who will be captivated by this remarkable music as I was that day many years ago.


John Abberger is principal oboe for Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and Artistic Director of Toronto Bach Festival. Hear John perform in the third annual Toronto Bach Festival from May 11–13, 2018. For tickets and concert information, visit torontobachfestival.org.

Behind the Musik: Bach B-Minor Mass

Download the Program Notes and Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

In the last years of his life, Johann Sebastian Bach set about composing and compiling a series of works that would represent a summation of his life’s work. The works were written, not for specific occasions, but rather as a testimonial to his achievements, and include The Musical Offering, The Art of the Fugue, The Goldberg Variations, and the eighteen chorale preludes. The last to be composed was the Mass in B Minor. Much has been written as to why Bach, a devout Lutheran, would have chosen a setting of the Roman Catholic Ordinary as a testament to his choral work. A plausible explanation is that Bach wished to leave to posterity a great Latin mass, a centuries-old symbol of Western culture, and a musical form that had challenged generations of composers. The tradition and the architecture of the Roman mass gave him the opportunity to write a complex, highly structured work, with a formality and on a scale not permitted by the Lutheran cantatas and Passions. Like those of the other great cyclical works mentioned above, the score of the Mass in B Minor can be seen almost as a “text book.” It was, in fact, never performed in its entirety in Bach’s lifetime. Bach’s score was inherited by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, who performed the Symbolum Nicenum at a charity concert in Hamburg in 1786. Forkel and Haydn had copies, and Beethoven made two unsuccessful attempts to procure a score. The Berlin Singakademie apparently rehearsed the work in the second decade of the nineteenth century, but the first performance of the complete work, translated into German and “modernized,” took place in Leipzig in 1859, more than a century after it was written.

One of the most astonishing features of this work is that, despite its elaborate symmetry and complexity, it is largely a compilation of works written much earlier. The first section to be composed was the Sanctus, first performed in 1724 as part of the Lutheran Christmas service. Manuscript parts of the Kyrie and the Gloria accompanied Bach’s petition in 1733 for a court title to the new Elector of Saxony in Dresden. Two new sections, the Credo and the movements from the Osanna to the end, contain large-scale reworkings of earlier works, including movements from several of Bach’s German cantatas. Only a few choruses were newly composed. It does not seem, however, that early models were chosen in order to facilitate or hasten the compositional process, a practice that was common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as composers struggled to meet deadlines. Bach’s reworkings were extensive and detailed: even details of text accentuation and resulting changes in articulation have been fully considered. It seems rather that Bach’s use of early material was carefully planned, so that this “text book” score could preserve a vast range of styles and genres. It is a remarkable demonstration of Bach’s great skill at reworking and restructuring existing works. It was also a testament to the tradition of the parody mass: parody is the term used to describe the extensive reuse of existing material, and this technique was widely used in mass composition during the renaissance. Parody masses form a large proportion of the masses of such composers as Gombert, Victoria, Lassus, and Palestrina. Bach’s use of the renaissance stile antico in several movements of the mass is a further nod to the long tradition of mass composition, here ingeniously coupled with movements written in high baroque style, and others in a “modern,” galant musical language.

Bach’s manuscript score of the Credo, described by Nägeli as “truly the most amazing piece of music in existence […] the awakening of the powers of faith through the wondrous force of music.”
Bach’s manuscript score of the Credo, described by Nägeli as “truly the most amazing piece of music in existence […] the awakening of the powers of faith through the wondrous force of music.”
From this diverse material Bach created a coherent and balanced work, each of the four main parts presented in a symmetrical design complete unto itself, and yet all parts intricately interconnected. This complex work, which both challenges and satisfies on countless levels, is perhaps the ultimate expression of Bach’s belief that “the aim or final goal of all music shall be nothing but the honour of God and the recreation of the Soul.”

The autograph manuscript score of the Mass in B Minor is in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Mus. Ms. Bach P180), and can be viewed on their website. After Bach’s death, the score was inherited by his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and then by CPE’s daughter, Anna Carolina. Hans Georg Nägeli, a composer and music publisher in Zurich, acquired the score from her estate in 1805, and in 1818 announced his plans to publish the score and sell it by subscription:

ANNOUNCEMENT
of the Greatest Work of Art of All Times and Nations
The incomparably great Johann Sebastian Bach has now, in our own time, been accorded a degree of recognition that makes it possible to proceed toward the publication of the work that, in content and length alone, but above all in grandeur, style, and wealth of invention, surpasses his works hitherto printed, to the same extent that these, without considering the vicissitudes of taste and the contingency of art forms, surpass those by all other composers. This is a Mass in five voices with full orchestra.


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Ivars Taurins

April 5–8, 2018, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre
April 10, 2018, George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Mass in B Minor

Dorothee Mields soprano
Laura Pudwell mezzo-soprano
Charles Daniels tenor
Tyler Duncan baritone

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

There will be a 20-minute intermission between the Missa and the Symbolum Nicenum.

Get to know Susan Suchard, soprano

Soprano Susan Suchard has been a member of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir since 2003. She teaches voice in her private studio at Trinity-St. Paul’s, and conducts the Preparatory Chorus of the VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto, for whom she also serves as General Manager. 

How did you come to be a singer?
I grew up singing in church. When I was young my family attended a Brethren church in London, Ontario. There was no piano or organ played in services. One of the elders, always a man, would stand up and “call out” a hymn. He would then proceed to sing the first line and everyone would join in. My brother, sister, and I would giggle when the singing got into dangerously high or low ranges, which it often did.

Then, in elementary school, I was inspired by Mrs. Sheila Schaus, the itinerant music teacher. I loved when she came into the classroom. Her perfume was exotic and she wore bangles that jangled when she conducted.

In high school, there was no vocal music program, so I took up the French horn, an instrument that allowed me to create lovely lyric singing lines (when I wasn’t required to play off-beat quarter notes!).

I became a horn major at Western University and began studying voice on the side. I did as much playing as I could in large ensembles and quintets, but each year I also sang in one of the Faculty of Music’s choirs. In my fourth year, I joined the Opera Workshop, and after singing Pamina in The Magic Flute and Blanche in The Dialogues of the Carmelites, I gave up the French horn to concentrate solely on singing. [Editor’s note: Tafelmusik Chamber Choir Director Ivars Taurins was playing viola in the orchestra for those operas at Western!]

What was your first music gig?
My first paid gig was as a horn player in the London Musicians’ Union Marching Band at the Western Fair in London, Ontario. I suppose my first unpaid gig was as the student music director of a high school musical for children called The Lion Who Wouldn’t starring Tom McCamus, now of Stratford Festival fame, and Nancy Palk, one of the founding members of Soulpepper Theatre.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Both of my parents played piano very well by ear. I learned to play too, and I read well enough to accompany my voice students, but sadly I did not inherit their skill at just sitting down and rattling off a tune. At any party or event, one of my parents could often be found leading a sing-along. To this day, my dad can’t pass a piano, in an airport, restaurant, or on the street in Huntsville, without sitting down to show off his party pieces.

What is your favourite music to listen to?
I am a sucker for a sad beautiful tune. I love the ballads from musicals and standards. I’ve always wanted to put together a cabaret show, but, because the songs I love are all sad, I’m not sure anyone would want to sit through them! 

What are the last 3 recordings you’ve listened to?
In trying to help one of my students find repertoire for a grade 9 Royal Conservatory examination: Bach’s “Ich nehme mein Leiden mit Freuden auf mich,” Fauré’s Au bord de l’eau, and Jean Coulthard’s Quiet.

What is your favourite thing to do in Toronto during your free time?
During my daily 45-minute drive to Trinity-St. Paul’s, I like to listen to audio books, with a decaf latte in the cup holder.

What’s your favourite restaurant in Toronto?

I like to try a new restaurant every time I go out downtown, but a trusty standby in the east end is The Real Jerk on Kingston Road.

Where is your own, personal, oasis in Toronto?
I’m fortunate enough to have a lovely, leafy back garden with lots of shady space. Last summer, my husband built a swanky new deck, so I’m looking forward to getting out there again in the spring. Otherwise, my daughter and I like to have a spa day every now and then at the Elmwood.

Are you involved with any other organizations?
When I’m not singing or teaching in my studio at Trinity-St. Paul’s, you’ll find me in the basement, also at Trinity-St. Paul’s, in the office of the VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto with my general manager’s hat on.

Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?
I’m itching to be in front of an adult choir as a conductor. I enjoy working with children’s choirs, and have done all my life, but I am really feeling the urge to work with an SATB or SSA group. I have a church soloist job and, when the organist is away, I step in as conductor. Each time I do it, I realize how much I enjoy the experience.


Hear Susan sing with Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra in BACH B-MINOR MASS, from April 5–8, at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, and on April 10 at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.

Behind the Musik: J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation

Download the Program Notes and Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Alison Mackay

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra standing in from of the Bach statue outside St. Thomas’s Church at the Bach Festival in Leipzig in 2014.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra standing in from of the Bach statue outside St. Thomas’s Church at the Bach Festival in Leipzig in 2014.

J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation is a celebration of the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, with an emphasis on the instrumental music which he created for his family, his students, and his colleagues. Using words and images, the performance also honours the artisans and tradespeople whose labor and expertise made the performances of Bach’s music possible, both in his own time and in the 21st century.

The project was born in June of 2014, when the members of Tafelmusik were invited to live in the city of Leipzig for two weeks as orchestra-in-residence at the city’s famous annual Bach Festival. Immersed in the atmosphere of the composer’s hometown, we were able to explore the craft of Bach’s own artisans under the guidance of our generous partners and advisors at the Bach Museum, who have provided many of the images for the project.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performing The Circle of Creation with a portrait of Bach on a screen.
Photo by Glenn Davidson

Since that time, the orchestra has taken the concert across Canada and the US, and to South Korea and China. Over years of this kind of touring, there is tremendous artistic growth in the performers’ understanding of the music and in a deepening rapport amongst themselves and with the actor on stage. Before we embark on a seven-city tour of Australia this May, we wanted to share with our Toronto audience the version which concertgoers on the other side of the world will experience.

The concert begins and ends with poetry about the honorary patrons of Bach’s city of Leipzig — the Roman god of music, Apollo, and his brother Mercury, who made a glorious musical instrument from the shell of a tortoise and seven strings of sheep gut.

Image of the hands of oboe maker Harry vas Dias, projected behind Tafelmusik oboists John Abberger & Marco Cera.
Image of the hands of oboe maker Harry vas Dias, projected behind Tafelmusik oboists John Abberger & Marco Cera. Photo by Glenn Davidson

Two millennia later, the instrument makers of the eighteenth century still used materials from the natural world — bird feathers for the quills that pluck harpsichord strings, maple and spruce for the bodies of stringed instruments, and boxwood for oboes. Sheep intestines were still used to create strings for Bach’s instruments, and brass strings were made by hand for his harpsichords.

Centuries-old methods are still used today for the making of historical strings for period instruments. Because the guild members of early modern Europe were obliged to guard their trade secrets, modern makers have had to be detectives, using forensic evidence from scraps of old strings and sources such as Diderot’s eighteenth-century encyclopedia to determine the materials and techniques that would have been used for Bach’s instruments.

The images seen in this concert portray artisans from Bach’s time as well as modern instrument builders who use historical techniques to create instruments for the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Film footage and still photographs created specially for this performance feature Toronto builder and restorer Quentin Playfair, who made a cello inspired by an instrument from the Stradivarius workshop in 1726; English harpsichord and string maker Malcolm Rose; American oboe maker Harry vas Dias; German bassoon maker Peter Wolf; Toronto bow maker Stephen Marvin; and the artisans of the Aquila String factory in Italy.

Much of the music on the program is typical of the works which would have been performed at Zimmerman’s Coffeehouse in the center of Leipzig. In 1695, the merchants’ guild of Leipzig had petitioned the town council for “street lanterns that would, as in Vienna and Berlin, burn all night to prevent incessant nocturnal crime.” On Christmas Eve of 1701, 700 oil-fuelled streetlights were installed in the city, making it safe for the first time for all citizens to walk freely at night, transforming coffeehouses into venues for recreation and music.

Bach directed an ensemble which performed on Friday nights at the cafe for which the owner, Gottfried Zimmerman, acquired a set of musical instruments. The orchestral suites BWV 1066 and 1068, the Third Brandenburg Concerto, the Trio Sonata BWV 1039, the Goldberg Variations, and the shorter solos for harpsichord, violin, or cello are typical of music which Bach would have performed with members of his family, university students, and amateur players of the ensemble known as the Collegium Musicum. Professional players from the Leipzig town band also participated in these performances.

These municipal musicians had responsibilities for outdoor performances from balconies at City Hall or one of the church steeples in town. Gloria laus et honour and Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme are well-known hymn tunes which would have been played instrumentally by these performers. They were given salaries, clothing, music, instruments, and housing for themselves and their families in the Stadtpfeiffer Gässchen (City Pipers’ Lane), which was also the traditional street for the city’s midwives.

Blair Williams and the orchestra at the end of a tour performance, in front of the image of the canon held by Bach in the Haussmann portrait.
Blair Williams and the orchestra at the end of a tour performance, in front of the image of the canon held by
Bach in the Haussmann portrait.

In 1746, the Dresden official court painter Elias Gottlob Haussmann painted a portrait of the 61-year-old Bach holding, as was customary, an emblem of his art. Rather than being pictured with a keyboard, the famous virtuoso chose instead to hold a small piece of paper with three short lines of music — the first eight notes of the bass line of the Goldberg Variations with a six-part canon written in code. It was a powerful symbol of Bach’s roles as composer, performer, and teacher. Like the instrument makers who made his violins and harpsichords, Bach regarded himself as a craftsman who had inherited much from the guild musicians who were his forebears.

The concert ends with a reflection on human hands and the thousands of hours it takes to master the use of a violin bow or a chisel. In the long hours of labour, musicians, and artisans are sustained by the beauty of materials, the artistry of their tools, the guidance of inspiring mentors, and the exhilaration of exploring

Quentin Playfair carving the scroll of a cello.
Quentin Playfair carving the scroll of a cello.

the art of a great genius. We share with our audiences around the world an abiding love for the music of J.S. Bach, and it is a privilege to be able to perform it in celebration of his art and in recognition of the artisans, scholars, tradespeople, and music lovers who have made our own performing lives possible.

To see a complete list of the images projected during the concert, please visit: tafelmusik.org/CircleofCreationImages

Special thanks to:

The Banff Centre for its generous support of film editing for the project.  Film editor Jane MacRae and Alison Mackay were able to work at Banff as recipients of Paul D. Fleck fellowships.

Ivars Taurins for his beautiful rendering in calligraphy of the bass line of the Goldberg Variations.

 Quentin Playfair and Sue Dickin for the creation and photography of a new cello commissioned by cellist Sandra Bohn.

Jean-Marc St. Pierre of maj productions in Montreal for permission to use his footage of the Aquila factory.  We also warmly thank Paul Lewis, and Elizabeth Brown of the Discovery Channel, and Tafelmusik Board of Directors member Trina McQueen for facilitating our use of this footage.

Timothy Barrett, Director of the Iowa Centre of the Book, and filmmaker Avi Michael, creator of the film Chancery Papermaking, for the footage of paper being made as in the time of Bach.

Dr. Daniel Geiger, Microscopist and Curator of Malacology at the Museum of Natural History, Santa Monica, California for his stunning magnified images of materials from Bach’s world.

For technical information about the capturing of these images, please visit tafelmusik.org/CircleofCreationImages

The Bach Museum, Leipzig for facilitating photography at the museum and permission to use images from the collection.

Production designer Glenn Davidson for creating the photo sequences of hands and Saxon sheep.


PROGRAM LISTING

Conceived, programmed, and scripted by Alison Mackay
Directed by Elisa Citterio
Blair Williams Narrator
Marshall Pynkoski Stage Director
Glenn Davidson Production Designer
Raha Javanfar Projections Designer
Jane Macrae Film Editor

March 14–18, 2018, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Sinfonia to Cantata 249a

Sonata for 3 violins in C Major, after BWV 1005: I. Adagio

Orchestral suite no. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: Ouverture

Chorale tune “Gloria laus et honor”

Orchestral suite no. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: Bourrée & Forlane

Sinfonia in G Minor, BWV 797, for solo harpsichord

Prelude in C Major, BWV 933, for solo harpsichord

Suite no. 3 for violoncello in C Major, BWV 1009: Sarabande

Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048: I. Allegro

Adagio, after Cantata 202/1: “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten” (Depart, melancholy shadows)

Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048: II. Allegro

INTERMISSION

Andante, after Cantata 208/9: “Schafe können sicher weiden” (Sheep may safely graze)

Partita for violin in D Minor, BWV 1004: Allemande

Tish Nign (18th-century Klezmer tune)

Cantata 140: Chorale “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (Awake, calls the voice to us)

Orchestral suite no. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068: Gavotte

Sonata for 2 violins and continuo in G Major, BWV 1039: Adagio & Allegro ma non presto

Canons on the first 8 notes of Goldberg Variations, BWV 1087
Simplex – Duplex a 4 – Duplex a 5

Excerpts from Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
      Air – Variation #18: Canone alla sexta – Variation #22: Alla breve

Canon triplex on the first 8 notes of Goldberg Variations, BWV 1087/13

Adagio, after Cantata 42/3: “Wo zwei und drei versammlet sind”

(Where two and three are gathered together)

Sinfonia, after Cantata 11/1: “Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen”
(Praise the Lord in his riches)

Movements from Cantatas 249a, 202, 208, 42, & 11, and Goldberg Variations #18 & 22 transcribed & arranged by Alison Mackay. Sonata BWV 1005 arranged by Christopher Verrette.

Behind the Musik: Safe Haven

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
by Alison Mackay

Safe Haven is an exploration in music, words, and images of the influence of refugee populations on the culture of their adopted countries. From the beginning of human history, war, persecution, poverty, and climate crises have caused people to abandon their homes and seek asylum beyond their borders. The British poet Warsan Shire, who was born of Somali parents in Kenya, has captured the anguish of making the decision to leave one’s own country in her poem called Home:

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
[…]
you have to understand
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land

Religious persecution in early modern Europe caused several waves of migration which profoundly influenced the commerce and culture of host communities. The largest diasporas resulted from the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain in the late fifteenth century and the outlawing of Protestantism in late seventeenth-century France.

William Hogarth’s depiction of Huguenots leaving the French church in Hog Lane, London in 1738. (Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo)
William Hogarth’s depiction of Huguenots leaving the French church in Hog Lane, London in 1738. (Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo)

For almost a century, the 1598 Edict of Nantes had provided protection for Huguenots, the French protestant followers of the sixteenth-century reformer Jean Calvin. In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the edict, ordering that Protestant churches be destroyed, schools be closed, clergy be deported, and lay people be forced to convert and remain in France. Protestant men caught leaving the country would be sent to the galleys, women would be imprisoned, and children would be confiscated.

In response to these threats, hundreds of thousands of farmers, scholars, bankers, lawyers, artists, and musicians left France in secret, and because they were said to be seeking “refuge,” people began to refer to them as “refugiés,” inspiring the first use of the English term “refugee.” France’s loss of human and economic capital became the gain of Europe’s cities — by 1700, a fifth of the population of Berlin and a quarter of the population of Amsterdam were French asylum seekers. The industries manufacturing Irish linen, Swiss clocks, South African wines, and Dutch paper were founded by refugee entrepreneurs bringing their technical expertise to their new communities.

Edict of Potsdam: the invitation issued to French Huguenot refugees to relocate in Brandenburg-Prussia.
Edict of Potsdam: the invitation issued to French Huguenot refugees to relocate in Brandenburg-Prussia.

The magnificence of Louis XIV’s Versailles had already had a strong influence on Northern European taste, and the arrival of French artists and musicians in London, Amsterdam, and Berlin helped to disseminate and solidify the liking for French goods and design. In October of 1685, Frederick William of Brandenburg and Prussia issued the Edict of Potsdam — an invitation to French refugees to make their homes in Germany. Prussian diplomats in Amsterdam arranged for sea transport to Hamburg, where the exiles were met by government representatives and escorted up the Elbe River to their chosen destinations. The newcomers were granted abandoned land and given building materials with which to erect new houses or repair old ones; the original landowners were fully compensated.

At the music-loving court of Celle, refugee actors and musicians were especially welcomed by the Duke’s French wife, Éléonore Desmier D’Obreuse, herself an ardent Huguenot. The Duke and Duchess kept a French orchestra mentioned by C.P.E. Bach in his account of his father’s life and musical influences:

[In 1700, when he was fifteen] Johann Sebastian went to St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg. Here he had the opportunity to listen to a famous orchestra kept by the Duke of Celle, consisting for the most part of Frenchmen: thus he received a thorough grounding in the French taste, which in those regions was at that time something quite new.

Many of the wind players in Lully’s orchestra had been Protestants, and in exile they helped to introduce the oboe, a new French instrument, to Germany. J.S. Bach was the most important composer of baroque music featuring the oboe (his cantatas feature more solos for oboe than for any other instrument), and it is likely that he was introduced to the instrument by the French oboists at the court of the Duke and Duchess of Celle.

French refugees also played a vital part in the dissemination of the music of Louis XIV’s official court composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully. The Huguenot theatre impressario Jean-Jacques Quesnot, who had been imprisoned in Grenoble on the charge of encouraging fellow Protestants to leave France, fled to the Netherlands and recognized a potential market in the new Francophone public in the Hague and Amsterdam. He organized performances of Lully’s Armide, Thesée, and Atys, and may have been the one to send a troupe of players to perform in a highly influential first full production of a Lully opera in London, Cadmus et Hermione.

Even more influential were the French music printers who set up shop in Amsterdam and began to publish the orchestral movements from Lully’s staged works in editions which were sold all over Europe. The most prominent of the Huguenot publishers was Éstienne Roger, who left Normandy as a young man in 1685, immediately after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He apprenticed in the printing trade and began to publish grammars and dictionaries. He produced his first beautifully engraved music books in 1696, and by the time of his death in 1722 had published over 500 editions of works by Europe’s most famous composers.

Engraving from Roger’s edition of Corelli Opus 6.
Engraving from Roger’s edition of Corelli Opus 6.

The contract between Arcangelo Corelli and Roger concerning the publication of Corelli’s twelve concerti grossi, Opus 6, one of the most influential publications of the eighteenth century, was discovered in the Amsterdam city archives in the 1990s and reveals fascinating information about the relationship between composers and publishers.

The contract, written in French, indicates that Corelli and Roger had exchanged a number of letters about the publication and that Corelli had already sent one batch of concertos to Amsterdam. The others would follow and the entire set of twelve would be engraved and published together entirely at Roger’s expense. No money was exchanged, but it was arranged that Corelli would receive 150 free copies of the partbooks, to be sent over land and delivered to his doorstep. Roger would undertake to print an extra 150 copies to be deposited with Corelli’s Amsterdam agent until the first 150 arrived safely in Rome. Then Roger and Corelli would both be free to offer their 150 copies for sale.

Less than a year after the contract was concluded, Corelli died and the publication was gradually received by his heir, the violinist Matteo Fornari. It was possible at the time for an engraver to create four to six pages on copper plates in a week. There are 202 pages of engraved music divided among seven partbooks in the publication, which would have taken almost a year to produce. The music was sent to Rome in small batches to lessen the danger of accident or theft — probably seven bundles, each containing 150 copies of one part as it was finished. The music is so beautifully engraved that we still use copies of Roger’s editions in Tafelmusik performances today. Safe Haven ends with a joyful Allegro from the fourth concerto of the set, featuring two virtuosic solo violin parts in dialogue.

After Roger’s death, his business was taken over by his daughter Jeanne, and after her death by her sister’s husband, Michel-Charles Le Cène, who published Antonio Vivaldi’s most famous work, The Four Seasons, in 1725. Our concert about the cultural influence of Huguenot entrepreneurs, landing as it does in the January cold, is an appropriate setting for Elisa Citterio’s performance of “Winter,” part of the Four Seasons cycle which runs through our 2017/18 season.

Huguenots were not the only exiles who influenced the commerce and culture of seventeenth-century Holland. In January of 1492, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile had conquered Granada, ending an era of Muslim rule in the south of Spain which had lasted for seven centuries. Emboldened to the cause of Christianizing the entire peninsula, Ferdinand and Isabella issued a royal decree that ended a Jewish presence in Spain dating back to Roman times. All Jews had to convert to Christianity or leave Spain by August 2 of that year. Many submitted to an outward conversion to Christianity, and many fled to Portugal hoping for greater freedom of worship. After a few years, Portugal also turned on its Jewish population, and in 1536 the Portuguese Inquisition began to torment descendants of Jewish refugees. “Marranos,” converts who continued to practise Judaism in secret, came under increasing pressure and began to look for new homes in Italy, England, and Holland. After 1600, they were particularly welcomed in the port city of Amsterdam, where they established trading networks which greatly contributed to the prosperity of the city.

The poet João Pinto Delgado (1580–1653), who was of Spanish descent, was born in the south of Portugal and educated in Lisbon. In middle age he fled through France to Amsterdam, where he became a governor of the Talmud Torah Seminary. His autobiographical poetry, published in 1627, describes the experience of leaving Lisbon and arriving in a safe haven where Passover could be openly observed. We have set the Spanish verses from this poetry to music by the seventeenth-century Spanish composer Juan Hidalgo, who in 1633 became the official harp player to the royal chapel in Madrid.

In England, it was steadfast Catholics who were forced into exile by religious persecution. After Elizabeth I succeeded her Catholic half-sister Mary as queen of England, legislation was passed declaring the practice of Catholicism to be high treason, punishable by death. Though Catholic musicians were sometimes tolerated, the brilliant composer and keyboard virtuoso Peter Phillips felt his situation to be dangerous enough to warrant escape to the Continent. For three years he worked for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in Rome, where he was also engaged as organist at the English Jesuit College. In 1590 he settled in Belgium and began to exert a strong influence on the school of north-European keyboard music. The Amsterdam organist Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, whom Phillips visited in 1593, composed a set of variations on a famous pavan by Phillips; both the Phillips model and variations by Sweelinck are featured in the second half of our program.

Between the union of Poland and Lithuania in 1569 and the takeover of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by Russia in 1768, Poland was known as a place of relative religious toleration. The Warsaw Confederation Act of 1573 was the first piece of European legislation to guarantee freedom of worship, and by 1600 about three-quarters of the world’s Jewish population lived in Poland. Catholics from Scotland and Roma families fleeing persecution in the Hapsburg Empire also found new homes there. The Roma became closely associated with musical life in Poland, performing at the royal court, at weddings, and in country inns. Georg Philipp Telemann, who for three years was in the employ of Count Erdmann II at his Polish estates, wrote about having been influenced by the music that he heard at these country inns, and while he was in Poland he notated a number of melodies which he later incorporated into orchestral compositions. The work called “Mezzetin en turc” from his “Burlesque” Suite began life as one of these tunes, called “Polish Dances” in a manuscript in Telemann’s handwriting now found in Rostock.

The development of European musical instruments is closely bound up with the cross-fertilization brought about by the movement of peoples through trade and migration. The design of the early violin in the northern Italian cities of Brescia and Cremona was influenced by Sephardic Jewish luthiers who fled to the north of Italy in the late fifteenth century. A military census from 1520 in Cremona shows Andrea Amati as an apprentice in the household of one of these instrument builders. The European lute was an offspring of the Arabic oud, which had flourished in Muslim Spain for centuries.

Today in Canada the musical scene is enriched by the presence of many players of instruments which flourished around the world during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, providing us with exciting opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue. One of these instruments is the west African kora, a plucked instrument made from a calabash covered in hide, with a neck bearing 21 strings. The kora was played by members of distinguished bardic families in Mali, where improvised music accompanied epic narratives which were passed down from generation to generation. Our guest artist, Diely Mori Tounkara, is the member of such a family from Mali and now lives in Montreal. He and our other guests, Maryem Tollar and Naghmeh Farahmand, are enriching Canadian musical life through their performing and teaching, passing down ancient traditions to a new generation of Canadian musicians. We are honoured to share our stage with these guests.

The final section of our concert explores some of the rich cultural traditions of West Africa and Mali in particular, traditions which were unknown to the Europeans who profited from the Atlantic slave trade, believing Africans to be somehow less than fully human. By 1700, ancient trade routes had connected the communities around the Niger River with the Mediterranean for a thousand years. Caravans conveying gold and ivory used in exquisite art works in Benin and Ghana travelled north across the Sahara to the coast, and returned with tablets of salt and reams of paper for the great centres of scholarship and manuscript production in the cities of Djenée and Timbuktu. In the eighteenth century, the favoured paper for the manuscripts of Mali came from Venice and was made in the same paper mills which supplied paper to Vivaldi. These fragile sheets of paper have survived the dangers of conflict and climate to bear witness to the common humanity of all who need safety and security to fully express our shared desire for knowledge and beauty.

The long-term effects of the slave trade still play a part in the complex story of human displacement today, for the great waves of refugee migration which occurred in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are tragically not a thing of the past. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees states that in 2017 there are 65 million people worldwide who have been forced from their homes, including 22 million official refugees who have fled from their countries. In 2016, only 189,000 refugees were resettled worldwide, 46,700 in Canada.

Photo credit: Saskia Laufer
Photo credit: Saskia Laufer

The stories of refugees who arrived here a generation ago reveal the tremendous contributions that they have made to the economy and culture of their new country. Thirty years ago, 155 Tamil refugees came to Canada in dire circumstances. They had been forced into lifeboats in the North Atlantic and were rescued by Newfoundland fisherman Gus Dalton. One of the boats was recently discovered by Canadian filmmaker Cyrus Sundar-Singh (photo left) and we are grateful to him for helping to tell the story with his own images and words: “The boat, which was once a reminder of fear and shame, has become a powerful symbol of hope for a better life in a new land.”

© Alison Mackay


PROGRAM LISTING
Directed by Elisa Citterio
Conceived, programmed & scripted by Alison Mackay
Opening words by Warsan Shire / Closing words by Cyrus Sundar Singh

Maryem Tollar, narrator and vocalist
Diely Mori Tounkara, kora
Naghmeh Farahmand, percussion

Raha Javanfar, projections designer
Glenn Davidson, lighting designer

January 18–21, 2018, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre
January 23, 2018, George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

Antonio Vivaldi
Allegro non molto, from “Winter” (The Four Seasons)

Jean-Baptiste Lully
Suite from Cadmus & Hermione Prélude ­ – Ouverture – Menuets – Chaconne des Africains

Kora solo

Claude Goudimel & Louis Bourgeois
“Or sus, serviteurs du seigneurs”

Henry Purcell
Voluntary on The Hundredth Psalm

Johann Sebastian Bach
Sinfonia to Cantata 156
Antonio Vivaldi
Allegro, from Concerto for 4 violins in F Major, op. 3, no. 7

Tomaso Albinoni
Allegro, from Concerto for 2 oboes, op. 7, no. 2

A. Vivaldi Allegro, from “Winter” (The Four Seasons)

INTERMISSION

Agostino Steffani
Ouverture, from I trionfi del fato

Juan Hidalgo
A la salida de Lisboa (on a text by João Pinto Delgado)

Peter Phillips
Pavan
Jan Sweelinck
Pavana Philippi

Tobias Hume
A Soldier’s Galliard

John Beck
“Come riggs are bonnie,” from The Balcarres Lute Book

Georg Philipp Telemann
Adagio, from Concerto for oboe in C Minor, TWV 51: c1
Mezzetin en turc, from Suite in B-flat Major “Burlesque,” TWV 55:B8
Les postillons, from Suite in D Major TWV55:18

Kora solo

A. Vivaldi Largo, from “Winter” (The Four Seasons)

Arcangelo Corelli
Allegro, from Concerto grosso in D Major, op. 6, no.4 (arranged)

There will be a 20-minute intermission.


We look forward to seeing you at Safe Haven,  January 18-21 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and January 23 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Click here for tickets.

Bach, Food, and the East Coast

By Brandon Chui, viola, guest 2017/18
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Charlottetown, PEI

Brandon Chui, violaFood – for me, it is that upon which the entire day is built; the day’s support pillars that are so important that a day’s simple routine (nevermind a complex routine!) just isn’t possible if this architecture has not been properly installed. I always worry about meals, often days in advance, especially when rehearsals and concerts are involved, and being on tour highlights how neurotic I am when it comes to feeding time. We’ve been on the road for four days so far, and while I’ve had a couple too many meals at a world-dominating fast-food chain which shall remain nameless (let’s just say that an Old Farmer with the same name has a song named after him), I’ve also had my fair share of smoked meat sandwiches and shawarma in Montreal to keep the days from turning into a raging dumpster fire.

If food provides my day’s architecture, it’s music that fills it with meaning. I’ve been looking forward to playing Tafelmusik’s innovative memorized program J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation since being booked for it back in January. Everyone’s learning curve is different, so I speak purely from a personal perspective — memorizing of this nature (viola parts, ie. the inner voices that are harder to memorize) takes months to prepare. There is the initial “installation,” and the constant updates and re-fortification to make sure there are no leaks. I started chiselling away in June while I was in Asia, and have been rechecking things right up until before the two concerts that we’ve played so far.

As prepared and confident as I was at our first concert in Montreal, I won’t lie, folks — I was terrified. Yes, rehearsals were incredibly fun, and it goes without saying the music is extraordinary in every way, but to have in the back of your mind, “Months of preparation and it comes down to now,” does not instill calm. There is something valuable that I learned from playing another Tafelmusik memorized program, The Galileo Project: little blips will occur here and there. These moments count for nothing; we are human and it happens. What does count is how you recover. It reminds me of something that conductor Jaap van Zweden said when I worked with him: “Nobody plays perfectly, but if you make a correction the fastest, you are the best.”

Homburg Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts
Tafelmusik at the end of their performance at Homburg Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, PEI. Photo: Lysiane Boulva

I’m writing this while en route to Charlottetown PEI after playing in Sackville NS last night, the second of six concerts on this Maritimes + Montreal tour. The two concerts so far have been those, “This is why I do this,” moments. While playing goodness-knows-how-many Imperial March(es) from The Empire Strikes Back has brought the house down every single time, it in no way compares to seeing, feeling, and hearing the uplifting spirit of Bach overwhelming the audience to elation and tears – I will take that any day over Darth. It’s simple, really: I ride for Bach, everyday. I can’t wait to get back at it at tonight’s concert at the Homburg Theatre in Charlottetown. But first thing’s first: pass over that lobster roll!


The orchestra has now performed in Charlottetown, PEI, at Homburg Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts and Antigonish, NS, at Immaculata Auditorium, St Francis Xavier University, with thanks to the Antigonish Performing Arts Series. The tour continues tonight in Wolfville, NS, at Festival Theatre with the Acadia Performing Arts Series. The tour concludes on November 26 in Halifax, NS, at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. More info at tafelmusik.org/Tours

US Tour: Tafelmusik in Seattle

By William Norris, Managing Director

At the time of writing, I’m trying to think of a good play on the infamous movie title for this blog, but it may end up being plain old “Tafelmusik in Seattle.” Let us know if you have better ideas.

After our show in La Jolla, we retired to our hotel. Hotels on tour are an interesting little facet of tour life. You never quite know what you’re going to get, and they vary wildly, being usually organized by our host venue. Dominic has already described the lovely hotel in Santa Barbara. The following night we were somewhere quite a different—more of a motel-style venue, on the edge of a busy road, so really quite different, although the fact I found I could sit by the side of the pool AND still get WiFi was a definite plus!

In La Jolla we found ourselves at a rather plush golfing resort, so we were happy to retire to the bar there after the show, in the company of Amy from our agents Colbert Artists, who very kindly treated the orchestra to a round of drinks. Some however had their sights set on healthier and equally relaxing goals—the hot tub. The official closing time was 11 pm, but by the time we arrived back it was 10:50 pm. Reception was mobbed by enthusiastic potential bathers, and they very kindly agreed to extend the opening by an hour, news which was greeted by excited whoops and cheers!

After their dip, the bathing portion of the tour party dropped by those of us in the bar, in their bathrobes. I shall spare them the embarrassment of posting pictures here!

 

The next day was a long one and necessitated an early start for our 10 am flight to Seattle. At the airport, our Tour Manager Beth Anderson managed check-in as usual. No matter how much prep you do, it’s always a slight unknown as to how checking musicians with instruments, cellos with their own seats, and all the cargo including double bass will go down with the particular check-in crew on duty that day. Sometimes you get unlucky and get a (British TV reference coming up) “computer says no” reaction.

Luckily, on this occasion, the staff of Alaska Airlines came up trumps and all went smoothly. After arrival in Seattle (with the bus parking seemingly situated the furthest possible distance from baggage reclaim) we transferred to the hotel and the orchestra had a few hours to catch their breath.

This was, I think, the eight hotel of the tour. Changing hotels almost daily can be pretty disorientating—I woke up several times with zero idea where I was, frequently thinking I was in the previous night’s room. It’s one reason why touring can be so tiring—so huge kudos to the orchestra (and indeed to Tour Manager Beth Anderson and the whole technical team) for never flagging, at least not visibly.

The concert in Seattle was a fitting cap to the tour. A great venue, a full hall, and a super-engaged and enthusiastic audience. (Read a review from The Sun Break.)

Following our return to Toronto (via Vancouver, as the planes from Seattle are too small for our instruments and cargo), the orchestra had a week off from Tafelmusik duties—before we get back in to our season with The Baroque Diva next week in Koerner Hall. See you there!

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra final bow at the Meany Theater, Seattle, WA.