For the occasion, Tafelmusik chose a sure-fire program that fell perfectly within their baroque wheelhouse: J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4, a set of dances from Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes, and, finally, Handel’s Water Music.
From the outset, it was apparent that both Citterio and the Tafelmusik Orchestra were simpatico. They were as one in the sharply dotted rhythms of the Overture in the Bach, there was sweet concord in the stately menuets, and the boureés danced with a unanimous energy. The Rameau that followed presented the band and its guest director with fresh challenges. Especially in the second movement, Tambourins, there were some tricky changes in tempo that were tightly brought off.
The main attraction of the program was the ever-popular Water Music. And here, the orchestra’s skill and enthusiasm made the performance the highlight of the evening. Moreover, under Citterio, each movement was insightfully infused with its own particular style, energy and Affekt – sometimes in adventurous ways. At times (such as in the F Major Bourée) there was a lightness of touch akin to Mendelssohn’s “fairy” scherzo. The rigadouns were nicely phrased, and the band had some fun with irregular offbeats. There was a surprising suaveness in a G Major Minuet. And the Lentement movement was endowed with symphonic grandeur worthy of Brahms.
Throughout the concert, Citterio was attentive to the orchestra – so attentive, in fact, that she almost never showed her face to the audience – and she gave clear gestural instructions to her players. They responded with brightness and transparency, as well as the “Tafelmusik swell” on sustained notes that is the ensemble’s signature. (Another Tafelmusik signature: wonky notes from the winds, also reared its head from time to time. But what’s a semitone among friends?)
It’s pretty obvious that Citterio’s return to Toronto at this time means that both she and Tafelmusik are considering the possibility that she might become the ensemble’s new artistic director. If both parties come to an agreement and sign on the dotted line, she would be a worthy successor to the outgoing Jeanne Lamon.
© Colin Eatock 2016