Tafelmusik: The Hunt

Jeanne Lamon was back tonight to lead Tafelmusik in Jeanne Lamon Hall at St-Paul’s Centre. There’s a quiet recognition of the journey made together. While Lamon is now called “Music Director Emerita,” recognizing a new role as a kind of senior advisor, there is still the deep relationship that one senses when she leads this orchestra.

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Jeanne Lamon, Tafelmusik’s Music Director Emerita (photo: Sian Richards)

Tonight was a curious mix in a program titled “The Hunt”. Horns were prominent in the works by Mozart, Kraus & Haydn.

Scott Wevers played Mozart’s 4th horn concerto on a modern replica of an old-style horn, valve-less that didn’t stop him from showing astonishing control, either in scales or arpeggiated passages. We heard a couple of marvelous cadenzas including one that elicited a few giggles as Wevers took us down down down to the lowest part of his instrument’s range. I’ve been listening to these concerti for years, but this is the first time I’ve been lucky enough to hear a performance like this, without benefit of a modern instrument. While a Tuckwell or a Brain or a Damm offer a heroic sound, and yes they do sound brave & bold on their recordings, I recognize this as real courage, to be facing the tests of a concerto without valves. There are of course trade-offs, so one can’t be as loud or as perfect: but come to think of it, that’s true for everything we hear from Tafelmusik. Instead we’re getting something that would be recognizable for someone from Mozart’s time. And the vulnerability of the performance creates genuine drama.

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Jeanne Lamon with Tafemusik (photo: Sian Richards)

This is also my first time hearing Mozart’s Symphony #25 without benefit of modern instruments, such as we heard in the score of Amadeus. The first minutes of the film –when they’re carrying the bleeding Salieri through the streets of Vienna to a doctor—feature those contradictory opening passages whether the passionate G-minor tutti that begins or the answering solo from the plaintive oboe. For both the concerto & the symphony Lamon spurred the horses –that is the orchestra—to a brisk gallop, apt for a chase.

And ditto for the closing movement of the Haydn symphony, that inspired the epithet, “The Hunt” (or La Chasse). I think almost everyone in the space was sitting there waiting for this familiar piece, so well known but so different when done by this kind of ensemble, whether in the galloping opening figure or the woodwind passages answering.
And so while Tafelmusik are known for baroque –they’re called “Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra” after all—this is really what I dream of, that they venture into more recent times, laying claim to repertoire from the time after the baroque. And I see in the brochure for next season that this concert is just a tiny taste of what’s to come. Next season includes a wind concert program including Beethoven, Mozart, Rossini & a world premiere from Cecilia Livingston, another featuring Mendelssohn & Tchaikovsky with a world premiere by Andrew Balfour, plus a new original program from Allison Mackay mixing music from different cultures. Oh yes, there’s also lots of baroque too (Messiah & the St John Passion of Bach), in the exciting season to come.  Oh my…!

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