8 years ago

Volume 16 Issue 4 - December 2010

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  • December
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Tafelmusik’s Jeanne

Tafelmusik’s Jeanne Lamon, One on OneCOLIN EATOCKTafelmusik is a busy orchestra for the next few months, withbig programmes in December, January and February. Butin late November the tireless Jeanne Lamon, Tafelmusik’sartistic director, found time to sit down for an hour and talkto The WholeNote. In a wide-ranging chat, I talked withher about about her orchestra, the early-music movement ingeneral – and Jeanne Lamon in particular.I thought we’d begin by talking about Tafelmusik’s current status –both in Toronto’s musical community and in the world at large.Curiously, the answers to those two questionsare not the same. I think in the internationalearly-music world we have a veryprominent stature, because of the hugeamount we’ve recorded, and because weoffer a kind of regular employment that noother orchestra does. Every other periodorchestra is pretty much a “pick up” group,nel.And they don’t have anywhere nearthe size of season that we have: we have aseason that’s comparable to a modern symphonyorchestra, which makes us unique. Ifyou’re a student studying baroque performance,Tafelmusik is the logical place to wantto be because we offer something special.I don’t think there’s anyone in the earlymusic world who doesn’t know who Tafelmusikis – but I do think there are people inToronto who don’t know who we are. Torontois a conservative city, and many peoplejust know a little bit about the arts: they’vebeen to the symphony and they’ve been tothe ballet, but they may not know what elseis out there. If you don’t go past the biginstitutions, you won’t know that there’s aTafelmusik out there. Maybe it’s because wealso perform in a church, rather than RoyThomson Hall or some place that people know as a destination.It’s not like we’re unknown here, but if you go out on the streetand ask people “What’s Tafelmusik?”, you might be surprised athow few people could answer the question. Of course, the peoplewho know us love us, and we have a great following. And theprofessional music community in Toronto thinks highly of us.Would you say there’s some kind of barrier to your wider recognition inToronto? I like to think it’s just a matter of time. We’ve been aroundfor almost 30 years – but that’s nothing, in terms of people understandingwho we are and what we do. And we’ve only been reallyLet’s talk a bit more about your core audience in Toronto. What doesTafelmusik’s audience want from you? I think a lot of the Tafelmusikaudience just love coming to hear the orchestra and the choir. Andat the same time there’s something about the Tafelmusik experiencethat’s more than just a concert. Many of them want us to do the sameold repertoire – but we keep mixing things up, and they seem to behappy about that. I just get a real sense of great love from the audience.I don’t think anyone is there because they feel they’re supposedto be. I sometimes get the feeling that some people go to other concertslike it’s a kind of penance or duty. But there’s none of that here.I suspect that in the minds of many music enthusiasts, you and yourorchestra are sort of “fused”: you are Tafelmusik and Tafelmusik isyou. How much of your life is devoted to Tafelmusik – and what elsedo you do? I’ll answer your question. I like to think that Tafelmusik is moreof a collective endeavor, and not an organization that is drivenAlison Mackay, our double bass player has designed a very creativethem, like “The Galileo Project,” are touring worldwide. Anothermusician, Julia Wedman, designed aprogramme for Earth Day called “Forcesof Nature.” The musicians are veryinvolved: they all sit on committees andare involved in programming decisions.It’s not that I don’t play a role asthe leader – but if I bow out and am notinvolved in a concert, it’s not like the plugis suddenly pulled. That’s what happenswith freelance groups: even if you haveleader. If you take the leader out and tellthe players to play, there’s nothing there. Ithink that Tafelmusik is a very differentanimal, and I think it’s much healthier asa result because you get a buy-in and anenergy from the players. So some peoplemay think I’m Tafelmusik, but that’s notthe complete reality.So what else do you do? Tafelmusik is probablyabout 90 percent of what I do. But ifI list the other 10 percent, it will probablysound like another full time job. I guestdirect: I’m going to the Victoria Symphonynext week. I work with Symphony NovaScotia every year, and I’ll be going againin March. In January I’m going to work with Orchestra London.Next season I’m going back to Les Violons du Roy in Quebec City,which I’ve done a number of times. As well, next year I’m going tobe working at the University of Ottawa, and also with the KingstonSymphony. So I get around – almost exclusively in Canada, althoughI have worked in Detroit.The other thing I do is teach. I teach for Tafelmusik SummerInstitute, but I also teach baroque violin independently. Rightnow I have only two students, but they’re both very keen and veryambitious.What about an independent solo performing career? Do you go aroundplaying concertos? Not as such. I mostly guest direct, but in thecontext of guest directing I may play a concerto or something. Butit’s more about directing. For me, the directing is educational – it’sabout passing on the enthusiasm for baroque music. And the peoplein symphony orchestras are really keen: they want to understandmore about baroque performance. There’s no longer the resistancethem on this repertoire. When the rehearsal is over, they don’t runaway – they come running up to me with a million questions.Do you have personal favourite composers and repertoire? It doeschange – it’s a “love the one you’re with” kind of thing. But the8 thewholenote.comDecember 1, 2010 - February 7, 2011

staples I always fall back on are Bach and Monteverdi – and Purcell,and Rameau, and Handel. It depends on the repertoire. For me,Bach is all about sacred music, and Handel is operas, and Mozartis everything. When I’m busy preparing for a performance I’mrehearsal comes, I’ve got it all memorized. So whatever music I’mliving with, it becomes my world. Then after the concert, it mysteriouslyevaporates. It’s strange: I can be completely obsessed with onething for a whole month. Then the last performance happens, I goout and have a beer, and the next morning I wake up and it’s gone.The composers you mentioned are all big names in the canon. Inyour years of working in early music, are there any lesser-knowncomposers who have impressed you? Biber is a wonderful composer– I think most violinists love Biber. Another composer, Schmelzer,is in his shadow a bit, and he doesn’t get his due. We did an entireJohannHeinrichSchmelzer.Historically informed isabout context. It means,“I know a lot about this.” Itdoesn’t mean I’m marriedto the exact reproductionof every detail.CD of the music of Schmelzer. I spent several months completelyimmersed in Schmelzer, and at that time I would have said thatSchmelzer was my favourite composer! Because we did a whole CDof his music, I discovered a whole personality that I didn’t knowa composer’s work, and that’s what we try to do. If you just do onelittle piece by one composer and another little piece by another, youmight not ever crack that nut.And there are various levels of the canon. At the very top youhave Bach and Mozart. Even Handel isn’t up there: even though he’sextremely popular, he’s about a quarter of a millimeter lower on thelist. And the reason I say that is because people compare Handelto Bach, and because he’s not Bach – he’s somebody else, with adifferent personality and aesthetic – they say he’s lesser. What I’vediscovered, more and more, is that composers all have their ownlanguage. I had no idea, until about 15 years ago how, humorousTelemann was. And if you don’t see it that way, it sounds like badBach, or second-rate Handel.I get the sense that amongst musicians who specialize in the baroquethat there’s been a kind of settling of the repertoire. Is the repertoireless adventurous than it was 25 years ago? I agree with that. I thinkwe have to balance the canon, which is worth hearing and peoplewill buy tickets to hear, with adventurous music-making. The senseof adventure we had when we started out is something we need tohold on to.One of the changes in the early music world in the last 25 years hasbeen a move away from the word “authentic” and towards the phrase“historically informed.” In your view, what was that all about? Thereare two reasons why the term “historically informed” has stuck. Ifyou think about the word “authentic,” what’s the opposite? Are youtherefore saying that something else is not real? It’s both insultingand inaccurate. Other terms also have problems. “Early music”implies that it’s music before 1750, and everything else is somethingelse. But it’s not about when the music was written, but about howyou approach the music. “Historically informed” gets around allthat: it’s not about what is or isn’t “authentic,” or when the musicwas written. Historically informed is about context. It means, “IDecember 1, 2010 - February 7, 2011 9

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