Review by Sylvie Di Leonardo
During heavy rush-hour city traffic, suffering through radio’s continual commercials, it is so easy to become overwhelmed. Luckily, I found the one place sure to comfort the souls of those who struggle to interpret this mass of voices. Tafelmusik’s Thanksgiving weekend program The Eloquent Cello included challenging pieces executed with the finesse required to ensure that all voices are not simply heard, but are made meaningful by the support they lend and receive.
Like many of Tafelmusik’s faithful patrons, I hustled down the newly-named Bloor Street Cultural Corridor to Trinity St Paul’s Jeanne Lamon Hall seeking a means to restore a sense of wonder through music.
The wrap-around balcony and full-light of this venue make for not only good acoustics, but also promote the intimate feeling that is often lost in larger houses. This weekend’s program featured and was directed by renowned viola da gamba-ist and cellist Christophe Coin, who is visiting Toronto from the Schola Cantorum in Basel and Conservatoire de Paris. Coin’s impressive body of work includes recordings of some of tonight’s selections (one of which was his first ever recording) and the founding of le Quatuor Mosaiques. While the atrium heard hopeful whispers that Coin would soon lead the orchestra, no such announcement was made.
On the topic of announcements: this evening’s program included very few, and needed even fewer. Perhaps tonight’s most important lesson was one that is most obvious; while the music can be said to speak for itself, the players of Tafelmusik ensure it needs no bells or whistles to do so. While introductions were few, the selections were recognizable to novice listeners and new patrons. The selections included mid-classical pieces that would have been heard by European courts in the late 1760s through 1780s. Among them were Boccherini’s Concerto in D Major, CPE Bach’s Symphony for Strings in B Minor, and Haydn’s Concerto for Cello in C Major. This last piece “followed me home” in a sense. The transitions between cello features and tutti sections are quite dramatic, and were tied together by the thunderous contrast between the sustain before the theme and the finale. Tafelmusik’s cathartic interpretation of this recognizable piece left listeners with a sense of renewed energy not in spite of such contrast, but rather, because of them—a sentiment whose value can certainly be appreciated, especially on Thanksgiving weekend.
It was clear to the audience that the players have managed to foster a playful relationship with Coin despite this being his first visit to Toronto. The immediacy of the interactions between the director and players makes me wonder what it is that makes a guest artist seem as familiar and supportive as the returning patrons. After bearing witness to oboist John Abberger’s features in the first movement of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf’s Symphony no. 4 in F Major (written after the fourth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses’ in which the rescue of Andromeda by Perseus is recounted), it became clear that such a relationship must be born out of mutual camaraderie and adoration of one another’s commitment to the craft. Such a feat is even more remarkable when considering that Coin played and directed both facing toward and away from the players throughout this evening’s program on what appeared to be a historical cello whose warm and authoritative tone were accurately represented by the program’s title.
While “Eloquent” is close, I in fact do not have a word for the beauty I witnessed tonight. I only know that I now understand why these instrumentalists have such a committed group of returning patrons. I am looking forward to the group’s holiday programming, which includes choral performances and an appearance by the students of the Winter Institute, and hope you will join us. I know you will be surprised and glad that you did.