Tafelmusik. as "good as it gets


The Kelowna Community Concert Association presented Tafelmusik, the world- renowned baroque orchestra led by Jeanne Lamon, at the Community Theatre on Thursday Night.

I have been fortunate enough to hear the group perform in their Toronto home base of Trinity-St. Paul's several times, and have come to expect a near-perfect standard from this group. On Thursday evening, they did not disappoint.

The program opened with an orchestral Suite from Lully's Phaeton, a 17th-century opera. A stately opening to the Ouverture soon gave way to an energetic and driven theme, which immediately reminded of why Tafelmusik is in- deed world-renowned. There was such clarity and intensity as they tumbled through busy passages, yet the joy and lightness of the music was never lost on them. Tuning between the strings and oboes was impeccable, and for an ensemble of its size, the perceived dynamic contrasts were impressive.

A Symphony from C.P.E. Bach, the second-oldest son of J.S. Bach, followed the Lully. Lamon spoke briefly about this work, describing it as an abstract and quirky piece from a composer who sought to 'break the mould' cast upon him by his famous father.

The only significant ensemble issue occurred in the opening, but was quickly forgotten as a back- and-forth dialogue amongst the violins emerged. Sudden dynamic changes and layered entries were handled with ease as the individual players in the orchestra seemed to function as a united whole. The 'quirky' traits and nuances of this work, which put it ahead of its time, were illuminated with a natural ease and precision that we do not hear often enough.

The senior Bach was featured next as John Abberger and Jeanne Lamon. took the lead with the familiar Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C minor. The continuity and seamlessness of sound as the theme moved amongst the soloists and greater ensemble was absolutely mesmerizing. The duet between violin and oboe in the slower Larghetto was nothing short of beautiful, and here the period instruments showed a lovely warmth and surprising depth of tone.

I particularly enjoyed the lush sound of the oboe in its lower register, and John Abberger was masterful in his ability to make his instrument speak. Lamon also had a moment to shine in the spirited Allegro that concluded the first half of the concert.

The second half began with the Orchestral Suite by Johann Fasch.

The dances of this suite were elegant and graceful, and the oboe duet in the Aria Largo was delivered with sensitivity. Here again, the awareness and control of all performers was evident as the ensemble listened and responded to the oboes. The Menuets were played with just the right amount of pomp, and the excitement of this Baroque music was handled with clarity and technical excellence.

The final two offerings from Dauvergne and Vivaldi continued to display the robust variety of sound that is at the disposal of this group. Here I noticed that this group really looked like they were having fun; the fact that most of the players were standing made the extent to which they were involved in the music obvious. They moved and danced together, both physically and in their sound.

This small baroque ensemble brings everything to the stage that any orchestra should, and are every bit if not more compelling than many modern orchestras. The performers of Tafelmusik have a tremendous ability to function as one, showing great control and assurance. Crisp tempi, aware ensemble playing, and great musicianship bring their music to life under the spirited direction of Lamon.

I look forward to their next visit.

Graham Vink has an AMus in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto, and is also a teacher and performer.