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A baroque diva at her peak

Koerner Hall
03/23/2017 -  & March 24, 25*, 26, 2017
Colin Labadie: Entwined: Sesquie for Canada’s 150th
George Philipp Telemann: Concerto in A Major, “The Frog” – Concerto in D Minor, TWV 53:d1
George Frideric Handel: Arias from Ezio, Rodelinda, and Rinaldo
Antonio Vivaldi: Motet “O qui coeli terraeque serenitas”, RV 631
Johann Georg Pisendel: Sonata da chiesa in C Minor – Concerto da chiesa in G Minor

Karina Gauvin (soprano)
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Rodolfo Richter (guest director and violin soloist)

K. Gauvin (© Michael Slobodian)

The dazzling Karina Gauvin made on of her all-too-rare visits to Toronto with this program, titled “The Baroque Diva”, giving us a sampling of vocal delights by Handel and Vivaldi.

The three Handel arias displayed a wide expressive range: “La mia costanza” from the rarely-performed Ezio is a declaration of love with sensuous modulations, trills and high notes. ”Ah, mio cor” from Rodelinda is a lament, with a da capo section that really ramps up the anguish. Armida’s “Furie terribili” from Rinaldo conjured up the fire-breathing dragons that are supposed to accompany the singer.

Vivaldi’s motet O qui coeli terraeque serenitas is actually quite animated for a religious work that implores God to make the earth appear squalid so that heaven will seem more attractive. Even the melancholy bits are imbued with the Vivaldian bounce. (The text was commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, a wealthy aristocrat who seems to have enjoyed life to the full, with many mistresses and a huge art collection). The wistful Aria with its momento mori theme gives way in the end to a jolly Alleluia.

The vocal pieces were interspersed with instrumental works by Telemann and Pisendel which made for a nicely diverting program by themselves, given the rapport between returning guest leader Rodolfo Richter and the ensemble. Telemann’s Violin Concerto in A Major nicknamed “The Frog”, is one of the amusing works of the era that creates onomatopoeic sounds, in this case, obviously, of frogs, using the bariolage technique. The concluding Menuet has a suitably rustic quality.

The two Pisendel pieces (the one called a sonata but really more a concerto) gave both orchestra and soloist fine means of demonstrating close co-operation with suave musicianship.

Ms. Gauvin treated us to two Handel encores: the upbeat “Mio caro bene” from Rodelinda, and a meltingly beautiful “Lascia ch’io pianga” from Rinaldo.

The concert opened with one of the 40 “sesquies”, two-minute pieces commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and shared with some 40 orchestras across the country. Colin Labadie’s Entwined seeks to invoke the interconnected strands of Canadian history. The close-textured music has a twangy sound in the strings while the winds play softly, evoking distance. Despite it being a period orchestra, Tafelmusik has commissioned other new works and there might be more in the offing as the Canadian Music Centre conducts an exploration called Opus Testing/Period Piece with eight young composers creating works for a quartet of players from the orchestra.

Michael Johnson



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