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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | More Of The Same Is A Good Thing With New Tafelmusik Leader Elisa Citterio

By John Terauds on September 22, 2017

Elisa Citterio’s first official concert as music director of Tafelmusik a showcase for an orchestra under a new generation of leadership. (Photo: Jeff Higgens)

Tafelmusik Orchestra with music director and soloist Elisa Citterio. Koerner Hall. Sept. 22. Repeats to Sept. 24 and George Weston Hall on Sept. 26. Tafelmusik.org

Violinist Elisa Citterio’s first concert as music director of the Tafelmusik Orchestra at Koerner Hall on Tuesday night indicated that Toronto’s fans of music performed on period instruments would go home pleased that they are getting more of the same.

Citterio led (and performed as a soloist in) a pan-Baroque programme from four revered masters from England, Italy and France. All but one of the pieces had appeared on previous Tafelmusik programmes. So the familiarity of the music allowed us to concentrate on what Citterio was bringing to the interpretations.

Citterio represents a generational change in period performance. The people who founded Tafelmusik nearly 40 years ago represented the forefront of a push to restore Baroque- and Classical-era music to something close to its original sound, both regarding instruments and how they were played. People like Citterio, who were born right after Tafelmusik was founded, are making their mark by enriching the colour and texture of performances, and of digging up forgotten names and works from the nether reaches of dusty European libraries.

Elisa Citterio and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra at Koerner Hall. (Photo: John Terauds)
Elisa Citterio and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra at Koerner Hall. (Photo: John Terauds)

For musical rarities, we have to wait for Citterio’s next program. But the opening concert was a great showcase of colour and texture. The most successful interpretations were of the Italian repertoire: Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto grosso in C Major, op. 6, no. 10, “Summer” from Antoni Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Vivaldi’s Concerto in F Major con molti strumenti, RV 569 in which Citterio demonstrated breathtaking bow control as well as a keen sense of dramatic pacing.

These interpretations were bursting with a sense of spontaneity (which, ironically, comes from careful rehearsal) and total confidence in the rhetoric of emotion and drama contained in the scores.

Georg Frideric Handel’s Concerto a due cori in F Major, HWV 333, opened the evening, and didn’t fare quite as well. It’s a work for two choirs of wind instruments from late in Handel’s life. He borrowed heavily from his greatest hits, including “Lift up your heads, O ye gates,” from Messiah, and a substantial section from the Birthday Ode to Queen Anne.

Handel’s trick was to transfer the chorus parts largely to the winds, stretching four open horns to the limits of their capabilities. Tafelmusik’s horn players (who play instruments without valves, as would have been the case in Handel’s time) usually do a fine job, but split into two sections on either side of the stage, they sounded sloppy much of the time, smudging up otherwise fine playing by the orchestra.

The evening closed with Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Suite from his final opera, Les Boréades. Completed in 1763, the opera’s Baroque music was already out of fashion, and Rameau did not see it produced. It is very fine, inventive score, though, filled with engaging dance rhythms that Citterio led with verve.

It will take a year or so before we start to see and hear the clear stamp of a new music director. But, in the meantime, it looks like Tafelmusik is more than maintaining its high standard of musicianship.

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With this start of the new season, Tafelmusik has prepared a boxed set of all nine Beethoven Symphonies recorded with conductor Bruno Weil – a recording project begun in 2004 and completed last year. They are well worth checking out.

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John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at 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
John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at 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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