7 years ago

Volume 8 Issue 5 - February 2003

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A publication of the

A publication of the Royal Canadian College of Organists Toronto Centre Order from: Norma ,Brubacher 15 Naylon Street, Maple, Ontario L6A 1R8 Phone/fax: 905-832-1600 Web: Organs of Toronto Alan Jackson & James Bailey 176 pp, sewn, paper ISBN: 0-9689713-0-x ·00 PLUSSHIPPINC & HANDLING Supported by a grant from The Trilliom Foundation "!rejoice [in this book], as will anyone who loves organs and knows what an important part they have played, and continue to play, in the life of the city." John Fraser, from the Prc/i1ct' A great Bookstore ... now with Music! Wo.rkin~ in partnership with L'Atelier Grigorian, Ontario's most respected retailer of Jazz and Classical music, the U of T Bookstore has a wide selection of music including Jazz, Classical, Opera, Roots Music, Soundtracks, Pop and more. Visit the 2nd flo~r of the Bo9kStore where you'll find a pleasant atmosphere, over 20 listening stations and regular label sales featuring discounted music from specific labels . . \ II to. b4itSrcAt VIAR'r' II by Colin Eatock Mr. B~ch Comes to CC111 January I I, 2003: Johann Sebastian Bach can appear in many guises. This evening, courtesy of '.fafelinusik Baroque Orchestra, he was every inch the cerebral but dour Kapellmeister in his Cantata "Widerstehe doch .der Stinde," BWV 54, for solo contralto and chamber orchestra. For those unacquainted with this little opus, its title translates as "Stand Steadfast Against Transgression," a.nd it's full ofuplifting lines such as "Be thou not blinded by Satan," and "He who commits sin is of the Devil." I couldn't help thinking that even 18th-century Lutherans - however solemn they may have been on Sunday mornings - wquld have found something more cheerful for their entertainment on a Saturday night: Among the other comppsitions on this mixed programme - also featuring Handel, Vivaldi and Domenico Scarlatti - there was a second Bach work. This was a "new" concerto for oboe d'amore that Tafelmusik director Jeanne Lamon has cobbled together from other Bach compositions. The arrangement held together well, but again there was a ·rigorous quality to Bach's music. For all his genius, Bach can sometimes give the impression of a gifted, hard-working schoolboy who earns top marks but is secretly the target of all his classmates' jokes. "1;00 much counterpoint; what is worse, Protestant counterpoint," quipped the irreverent Sir Thomas Beecham. Even Claude Debussy couldn't resist having some naughty fun at Bach's expense: "When the old Saxon cantor has no ideas, he sets off on anything and is truly merciless." wrote the French composer. "He is unbearable, e~cept whel) he is admirable." .:\,nd so it was this evening: Bach seemed humourless and over-earnest compared with the other baroque comp0sers presented. . ' As for the performances, they were all we have come to expect from Tafelmusik: cl.ear, precise and transparent. Oboist John Abberger's reading of the concerto was fluid and nuanced. It's unfortunate, though, that the vocal part of "Widerstehe doch der Stinde" lay below the comfort zone of Marie-Nicole Lemieux's plummy contralto. (She later shone in an encore that suited her voice much better: "Ombra ma'i fu," from Handel's Xerxes.) • One more thing: the concert programme contained a flyer for a Toro~to Symphony Orchestra performance featuring three of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. "TSO Plays Baroque" the advertisement boldly announc~. There was a time when this would have been greeted like a pamphlet for the Progressive Conservative'Party at an NDP convention - but these days it seems that the old-style wars have been sublimated into a live-and-let-live musical ethos. January 16, 2003: Tonight, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presented Brandenburgs Nos. 2, 3, and 4 (sharing the evening with Strauss' Metamorphosen). Here was another Bach: a Bach who could sing and dance, and was fluent in Romance languages - a Bach who puts the impertinences of Beecham and Debussy (and my) to shame. The instruments, of course, were modern, with chin-rests for · the strings and lots of keys and valves on the winds. The sound was also modern: sustained and homogeneous, with long musical lines that contrasted with Tafelmusik's downbeat-driven playing. Was it better than Tafelmusik? Worse? Let's just say it was different: the TSO's Bach was .elegant yet lively, thanks largely to Jacques lsraelievitch in his dual role as conductor and soloist. It's nice to see the TSO resisting the notion that Bach · "belongs" to specialized period ensembles - after all, he belongs to everyone. But these days, when they play Bach, it's done by little bits of the orchestra, in an attempt to replicate the size of an 18th-century ensemble. As a result, something has been.lost: when was the last time, dear reader, you heard a big, fat Stokowski arrangement of a Bach fugue? Or are they taboo in our ostensibly "I'm-OK-You're-OK" musical world? I can already hear the cries of "inauthentic!" On the contrary, they are authentic mid-20th century arrangements of Bach for large, modem orchestras - they're grand and glorious, and great good fun. Let's bring them back, cymbal crashes and all! Colin Eatock ( is a Toronto-based composer who frequently writes about music for The Glo~ and Mail and for other publications. February 1 - Marc~ 7 20.03

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