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A feast of courtly dance music

Koerner Hall
09/22/2016 -  & September 23, 24, 25, 27, 2016
Johann Sebastian Bach: Orchestral Suite no. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069
Jean-Philippe Rameau: Dances from Les Indes galantes
George Frideric Handel: Water Music

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Elisa Citterio (director)

E. Citterio (Courtesy of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra)

The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra opened its 2016-17 season with this meaty program at Koerner Hall. The concert was lead by violinist Elisa Citterio, who also guested last season. The orchestra is seeking a replacement for Jeanne Lamon and the understanding is that one of the guests this season and last will be the next leader.

Unfortunately the opening work, JS Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4 made for a halting start. The rippling pulsations of the Ouverure began nicely enough but what followed meandered and lacked definition. The following Bourrée, though, was precise and lively, and the concluding Réjouissance was an explosion of musical joy.

Just 21 players performed the Bach work. I kept wishing for a few more strings, which is what we experienced in the second piece, a sampling of three dances from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s sprawling, episodic Les Indes galantes. The opera contains some 90 minutes of dance music; the springy dances, with their energetic shifts in tempo and colour, left one wanting more.

The big featured work (and big it turned out to be) was Handel’s Water Music. The contents of the work have been broken down into three separate suites and usually just one of them gets performed in a concert. But this time we heard the entire 50-minute piece which amounts to a hefty dose of courtliness. While it is full of variety and made for quite a showcase for the 31 players, it lacks an overall structure. It is astonishing to learn that King George I requested it be played three times during his lengthy party on the River Thames in 1717.

We were treated to an encore - a minuet by Rameau. It was more Handelian than Handel, with trumpet flourishes and drumrolls. Truly a bravura finish.

Michael Johnson



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