Tafelmusik, Canada’s award-winning orchestra on period instruments, has become an internationally recognized ensemble lauded by Gramophone Magazine as “one of the world’s top baroque orchestras.” Founded in 1979 by Kenneth Solway and Susan Graves, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra has been under the inspired leadership of Music Director Jeanne Lamon since 1981, who celebrates her 30th Anniversary in that role during the 2011/12 season. With its artist-focused mandate and commitment to excellence and innovation, Tafelmusik is actively creating new contexts for the performance of baroque and classical music.
In January 2012, Tafelmusik launched its own independent label, Tafelmusik Media, which encompasses new digital, live performance, studio CD and DVD recordings, and re-releases of previous Tafelmusik recordings from SONY Classical and CBC Records. The new Watch and Listen site was also launched as the precursor for Tafelmusik’s future digital concert hall, which in the future will feature live concert broadcasts and podcasts via social media and on internet television. Tafelmusik Media recordings are distributed by Naxos USA and Naxos Global Logistics.
Delighting audiences worldwide for more than three decades, Toronto-based Tafelmusik now reaches millions of people through its extensive touring, critically-acclaimed recordings, broadcasts, new media, and artistic/community partnerships. The vitality of Tafelmusik’s vision clearly resonates with its audiences; the orchestra performs more than 50 concerts every year in Toronto for a passionate and dedicated following.
At the heart of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra is a group of seventeen remarkably talented, enthusiastic and dynamic permanent members, each of whom is a specialist in historical performance practice. Their collaboration results in a delightful transparency, vitality and richness of sound, which has garnered acclaim around the world. The musicians participate on many levels, whether as core members, soloists, or contributors to the exceptionally creative programming ideas that bring Tafelmusik concerts to life and make them fully relevant in a 21st-century context.
The Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, specializing in baroque and classical performance practice and vocal technique, was formed in 1981 to complement the orchestra. Under the direction of Ivars Taurins, the choir has been praised for its clarity and brilliance and has been described as “the best period-performance choir anywhere in the world” (The Globe and Mail). This season, Tafelmusik salutes the ensemble’s three decades of artistic excellence with Choral Anniversary: Celebrating 30 Years, a concert of music selected by Taurins, which includes a commissioned work by Canadian composer James Rolfe.
In 1991 the choir was awarded the Healey Willan Prize “for its consistently high level of artistic achievement and for its unique contribution to choral art in Canada.” In 2000, the Choir's Bach Motets CD on CBC Records was released to critical acclaim, followed by its first a capella CD, also on CBC Records, in 2003. This compilation disk features 19th- and 20th-century French choral music by Fauré, Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Poulenc and Messiaen. Its fifth CD, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, was released on CBC Records in 2007 in celebration of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir’s 25th anniversary season. Tafelmusik’s annual performances of Messiah and Sing-Along Messiah — which celebrates its 25th Anniversary this season — have become an established part of Toronto's holiday tradition. The choir’s performance of Handel’s masterpiece has been described as “an almost superhuman achievement … one of the best Messiahs I have ever heard.” (The Globe and Mail). In December 2010, a live performance of Tafelmusik’s Sing-Along Messiah was telecast nationally on Bravo! The film was directed by Dave Russell, produced by Stuart Coxe and executive produced by Gordon Henderson of 90th Parallel Productions. In September 2011, the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir appeared with Kent Nagano and l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal at the inaugural concerts in its new hall, La Maison symphonique de Montréal. This performance was recorded and has been released on CD by Analekta.
Tafelmusik has become a major force on the international scene, with a rigorous touring schedule that sees the orchestra on the road for seven to twelve weeks each year. In February 2009, the orchestra made its debut at the legendary Carnegie Hall with two sold-out performances, which were praised by the New York Times for “stately, buoyant and crisply etched playing … elegant phrasing and lithe clarity.” Tafelmusik returns to Carnegie Hall in November 2011 with a mixed baroque programme directed by Jeanne Lamon. The New York Times once again praised the ensemble for its “insight, assurance and visceral engagement.”
Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2011 (Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)
Regular tours in Canada, the United States and Europe are complemented with ambitious tours to destinations like Asia. The orchestra has toured in Asia since 1990, performing in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. In October 2010, Tafelmusik took The Galileo Project on the road to the Beijing Music Festival and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Tafelmusik makes its debut in Australia and New Zealand with The Galileo Project in March 2012.
Tafelmusik has been invited to perform in Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, including the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Musikverein in Vienna, Symphony Hall in Birmingham, and the Barbican Centre in London. Since 1984 Tafelmusik has also performed in Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Mexico, The Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Venezuela, and from coast to coast in the United States and Canada. Tafelmusik made its debut at the Reate Festival in Rieti, Italy by invitation from the Festival’s Artistic Director Kent Nagano in 2009, and was invited to return in August 2010.
The only Canadian orchestra to have held an annual international residency, Tafelmusik was orchestra-in-residence at the Klang und Raum Festival in Irsee, Germany for 19 years from 1993. For Klang und Raum’s final edition in September 2011, the festival’s Artistic Director Bruno Weil led Tafelmusik in works by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.
An integral part of Tafelmusik’s success worldwide has been its recordings, with a discography of more than 78 baroque and classical albums on the Analekta, CBC Records, Sony Classical, Collegium, Hyperion and BMG Classics labels. In 2006, Tafelmusik was honoured with the orchestra’s 8th and 9th JUNO Awards for their recordings of Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 (Analekta/Sony BMG in Europe) and Baroque Adventure: The Quest for Arundo Donax (Analekta). Tafelmusik’s recording of Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 was released in the in 2008 and was nominated for a 2009 JUNO Award. This CD package also includes a DVD of concert footage and musician interviews. The orchestra’s recording of Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico with world-renowned violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch garnered international acclaim and recognition, including a JUNO Award nomination. In October 2011, Tafelmusik released its most recent CD, an all-Bach recording featuring countertenor Daniel Taylor on the Analekta label. Tafelmusik launched the independent label Tafelmusik Media in January 2012, with new releases The Galileo Project (CD and DVD) and Sing-Along Messiah (DVD), as well as re-releases of Tafelmusik CDs originally recorded for SONY and CBC Records.
Tafelmusik’s reach has extended to television and film, with performance documentaries Le Mozart Noir and The Four Seasons Mosaic. Produced by Media Headquarters, Le Mozart Noir is a documentary on Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a French Black composer and contemporary of Mozart. Originally broadcast on CBC, BBC, PBS, TV5, and ARTV, the DVD was released in 2005. The Four Seasons Mosaic, also produced by Media Headquarters, is a cross-cultural arts special which reinvents Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to include a Chinese pipa, Indian sarangi and Inuit throat-singing. The Four Seasons Mosaic premiered on CBC Television’s “Opening Night” in 2005, and the DVD is paired with Tafelmusik’s L’estro armonico CD.
At home in Toronto Tafelmusik performs over 50 concerts each season at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, a historic church in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto, as well as a series of performances at George Weston Recital Hall in the Toronto Centre for the Arts, and at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for the Performing Arts, Royal Conservatory of Music. Selected concerts at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre are recorded for broadcast on CBC Radio Two programmes, and are also heard on National Public Radio in the United States.
Tafelmusik’s long and celebrated collaboration with Opera Atelier has helped establish Toronto as an important North American centre for baroque and classical opera performance. The two organizations collaborate on two productions per season, including performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the fall of 2011 and Lully’s Armide, which will also be seen at the Royal Opera House in Versailles, France in May 2012.
Working towards its vision of becoming an international centre of musical excellence, Tafelmusik has invested much energy and many resources into ongoing music education and outreach programs for music-lovers of all ages. In 2000, the orchestra and choir founded the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute (TBSI), held at the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. TBSI offers advanced students, pre-professional and professional musicians an in-depth course of study of baroque repertoire and performance practice through masterclasses, lectures, orchestral and choral training, and chamber ensembles. TBSI is held at the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, where Tafelmusik is the baroque orchestra-in-residence. In 2010, Tafelmusik launched Baroque Mentors training programmes that allow emerging artists to learn directly from Tafelmusik musicians and distinguished guest artists through university residencies and guest artist masterclasses. This successful programme has been expanded for the 2011/12 season.
Tafelmusik continues its commitment to the Advanced Certificate in Baroque Performance Programme at the University of Toronto. This one-year programme is an intensive immersion in baroque performance on period instruments, combining study and performance with Tafelmusik musicians with academic courses offered at the Faculty of Music. Also offered is a two-year graduate programme leading to a Master of Music in Period Performance.
Tafelmusik's vision for music education also includes a programme for students in grades 6 through 12 featuring free outreach concerts, a musician-in-the-classroom programme, multi-disciplinary projects with area schools, and education events on tour including university residencies, children’s concerts and school visits. As part of an ongoing commitment to music education, Tafelmusik is providing permanent music-education classroom materials to the school groups they meet on tour, including access to Tafelmusik’s online learning centre, curriculum-based study guides, the JUNO Award-winning TafelKIDS™ recording Baroque Adventure: The Quest for Arundo Donax CD, the critically acclaimed Four Season Mosaic DVD with Inuit, Chinese and South Asian musicians, and Tafelmusik recordings related to the education programme.