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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Concert review: Tafelmusik voices bloom beautifully in first Jeanne Lamon Hall programme

By John Terauds on November 7, 2013

The singers and instrumentalists of Tafelmusik acknowledge applause at Jeanne Lamon Hall on Thursday night (John Terauds phone photo).
The singers and instrumentalists of Tafelmusik acknowledge applause at Jeanne Lamon Hall on Thursday night (John Terauds phone photo).

The Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, Orchestra and guests under conductor Ivars Taurins took their audience on a rich musical voyage to 17th century Rome and London at the freshly renovated Jeanne Lamon Hall on Thursday night.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

The programme, crafted with a great deal of care by Taurins, was impeccably rendered, but the biggest joy was hearing how beautifully the acoustical changes work for voices inside the old Trinity-St Paul’s Church on Bloor St W, its sanctuary now renamed after Tafelmusik’s longtime music director.

High-pitched instruments and voices continue to have the slightly sharp edge that has crept in since much of the lower level was clad in wood over the summer, but the rest of the sound spectrum has benefited immeasurably, giving the cellos and the lowest notes on lutes a big, warm resonance.

Taurins worked his usual dynamic magic on his choristers, ensuring that the words and their specific meanings were given as much emphasis as the beauty of the musical lines themselves — the main point of so much early baroque composition.

To open each half of the programme, we heard two settings of sacred texts by Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674) and Henry Purcell (1659-1695) chosen to show off the variegated talents of each composer, considered to be the master of the time each respective home base.

Although he grew up and lived near Rome, Carissimi’s music is clearly influenced by the grand Venetian sound of St Mark’s musical tradition. Taurins chose the oratorio The Story of Jephtha — a sad Biblical tale meant to be performed at Lent — for the audience’s long-form appreciation of Carissimi’s craft.

To give Purcell’s music critical mass, Taurins created his own pastiche, a secular one made up of incidental music from plays as well as the semi-opera/masque The Fairy Queen.

Two invited soloists, soprano Suzie LeBlanc and tenor Charles Daniels, supplemented solo talents plucked from the choir, including some excellent singing from baritone David Roth.

The overall shape and balance of the music was excellent, but several sections of the Purcell portion of the programme were a bit slow and too similar to provide a great sense of narrative contrast. I had the distinct impression that Daniels, who has a highly individual singing style that makes his audiences fill in the blank consonants at the ends of words, was the likely drag on tempos most of the time.

LeBlanc was in fragrant vocal bloom throughout, really taking flight in the Carissimi oratorio, where she sings the part of a young woman who is about to be sent to her death by her father.

It’s emotionally charged music that gets its full due from everyone involved.

Performances continue to Sunday afternoon. Details here.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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