Thursday, September 10, 2015

A unique bassoon concerto presentation

"Unique" is not a strong enough's completely awesome.  The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra offers an innovative concert experience called House of Dreams.  Described as "a magical journey to the meeting places of baroque art and music", House of Dreams features five European homes (located in London, Venice, Delft, Paris and Leipzig) where, during the baroque era, concerts were performed in those very houses against a backdrop of paintings by Vermeer, Canaletto and Watteau.  In order to create this imaginative atmosphere, the House of Dreams concerts include stage direction, narration, and projected images.

In the words of creator Alison Mackay (who also happens to be Tafelmusik's double bassist):
House of Dreams is an evocation of rich and intimate experiences of the arts in the time of Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi and Bach.  It’s a virtual visit to London, Venice, Delft, Paris and Leipzig, where great masterpieces by European painters were displayed on the walls of five private homes. These houses were also alive with music, often played by the leading performers and composers of the day.” 
Just about everyone who is involved in classical music realizes that now, in the age of the internet and endless options for entertainment and leisure, the old-fashioned classical music concert (a straightforward performance of a list of musical works, no frills, attended mostly by season subscribers) is nearly an anachronism.  Today's audience demands to be enticed.  And Toronto-based Tafelmusik has figured out a great way to do just that.

The performance below of bassoonist Dominic Teresi performing the third movement of the Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto in e minor is featured in House of Dreams.  As in all performances by Tafelmusik, each musician, including the soloist, is performing on a period instrument.  (How is it possible to sound so good on a baroque bassoon?!  In the capable hands of Dominic Teresi it sounds very much like a French basson.)


The quality of playing is amazing. (And I think the large lute - or is it a theorbo? - is the icing on the cake.)  Even more unbelievably....and this is huge.... did you notice that each musician is playing from memory?  Have you ever attended or participated in an orchestral concert which was played from memory - in which not just the soloist, but the whole darned orchestra played from memory?  I haven't.  What a fascinating concept; I wonder if the absolutely perfect ensemble displayed in this recording is partly enabled by memorization.  All of the energy and focus which would have been devoted to reading the music and its many intricate details is now free to be applied to acute listening and world class teamwork.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a city which is included on Tafelmusik's current touring schedule, audience approval of House of Dreams has been off the charts.  Check it out if you can!