tafelmusik presents the hunt: mozart and haydn

Jeanne Lamon, Music Director Emerita, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Photo by Sian Richards.

Jeanne Lamon, Music Director Emerita, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Photo by Sian Richards.

‘music for feasting’ is the english translation of ‘tafelmusik’, and indeed Tafelmusik’s program for The Hunt: Mozart & Haydn (april 25th at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre) was music appropriate for a dinner table---not as an ambient and background thing, but a harbinger of an almost profound cheerfulness and that peculiarly electric character of period instruments that must work wonders for good digestion.

the dinner table, however, is not exactly where the program would have us sitting: ideally on horseback, with a pre-valve horn in one hand and reins in the other, signalling to other fellow huntsmen and huntswomen at the sight of potential game or (more likely) to announce that we’re lost. one of the two sub-themes surrounding the program is the also german Sturm und Drang---to “frighten, to stun, to overcome with emotion”....however, even in the more spirited crescendos of the last movement of haydn’s “La Chasse” symphony, i remained perpetually unstunned and unfrightened. perhaps that’s at least one of the many reasons my generation stands in need of institutions like Tafelmusik and of baroque music especially, for the recalibration and re-sensitization of nerves overstimulated by the cacophonous experiments of modern sound engineering…  

Everyone nowadays lives through too much and thinks through too little: they have a ravenous appetite and colic at the same time so that they keep getting thinner and thinner no matter how much they eat.--Whoever says nowadays, "I have not experienced anything"--is a fool. “” friedrich nietzsche, Human, All Too Human.

i for one am curious of the social atmosphere that procured such incredibly tender sensibilities that once responded to music of the sort in this program with shock and was overcame with emotion. though that atmosphere is now almost unimaginable, its music persists through the vector of inexplicable geniuses of such seminal composers like mozart (who wrote his Symphony no.25 at the ripe age of 17).

the other theme permeating the program had nothing to do with horns or hunting but with the two people waving goodbye their permanent positions in Tafelmusik’s orchestra: former Musical Director jeanne lamon and her partner, cellist christina mahler.

lamon, who was director between 1981 and 2014, has now retired to the position of Music Director Emerita ( the emerita i imagine means being allowed to drop in anytime you like for an absolutely smashing performance). 1981 was also when she and christina arrived in toronto to join a three-year-old Tafelmusik orchestra---this program will be their last together in Jeanne Lamon Hall. it was a sombre and beautiful thing to be in the audience for the closing notes of the last movement in the haydn’s Symphony no.73, to be a part of the celebration of a relationship that has spanned countries, decades, and countless lists of fugues and symphonies, a life shared in love and in music... it’s almost unbearably beautiful.

the evening began with mozart’s Symphony no.25, otherwise known as his ‘Little G Minor’ (in comparison to his more celebrated Symphony no.40). it opens with a rush on violins that is intermittently interrupted by a tune on oboe (john abberger is a stellar presence all throughout) and maintains its incessant energy right till the end of the Allegro. from there on to the most anticipated portion of the evening: the National Ballet Orchestra’s hornist scott wevers takes on the un-enviably task of mozart’s taxing Horn Concerto no.4 (which i introduced to this blog back in may for the week41 entry of 2018).

Jeanne Lamon, Music Director Emerita, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Photo by Sian Richards.

Jeanne Lamon, Music Director Emerita, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Photo by Sian Richards.

wevers played on a classical horn made made in 2000, classical because unlike moden horn, it has no valves and instead relies on the combination of crooks and couplers to achieve a full tonal range. even with these adjustments is remains an incredibly difficult task to navigate the winding labyrinths of mozart’s fourth horn concerto. despite a couple fumbles in the solo segments of the concerto, wevers pulled off the complex techniques of variegating lip and pulmonary tensions.

next on the program was also the least advertised: an excerpt from joseph martin kraus’ Symphony in C Minor, a relatively brief affair that begins as a Larghetto and ends Allegro. kraus was a german contemporary of mozart, born in the same year as him and survives the wunderkind by a mere eleven months. the vitality of the Allegro portion reminded me of how, in his Ecce Homo, that same Nietzsche once described what he expects of his ideal musical experience: “I will say another word for the choicest ears: what i really want from music is that it be cheerful and profound, like an afternoon in October.”---indeed that can be said of the entirety of Tafelmusik’s The Hunt.

the final item on the night, from which the program borrowed its title, was joseph haydn’s Symphony no.73 in D Major (“La Chasse”, 1782). as the most prolific classical composer, haydn wrote approximately 106 symphonies, and his La Chasse was his in honor of his patron nikolaus esterhazy’s love of hunting. it begins more cheerfully than mozart’s Little G Minor, and in 6/8 time---which haydn used in many instances of his compositions---and ends on a more sombre note reminiscent of the solo melody played on oboe in the first minutes of the mozart symphony.

despite a successfully executed program---by musicians whose body language barely concealed their excitement in participating in a truly unique orchestra---the strongest spotlight was cast on those who were departing. after lamon’s 34 years with the orchestra (38 in mahler’s case), the two look to pursue the next rung in their musical journey, together. Tafelmusik too is focused on the horizon, the programs for the evening came with pamphlets announcing the theme of their 19/20 season: OLD MEETS NEW.