By Tricia Baldwin

Standing ovation for Jeanne Lamon, Bruno Weil, and Tafelmusik in Augsburg, Germany

As we count down to the launch Tafelmusik’s 45th Anniversary Season, an all-Beethoven program conducted by guest director Bruno Weil, we are delighted to share this up-close-and-personal reflection from Tricia Baldwin, former Managing Director of Tafelmusik. In this article, Tricia vividly recalls Tafelmusik’s journey exploring Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with Maestro Weil — from their first performance of the work in the Bavarian village of Irsee to the recording session in Toronto many years later.

Tricia Baldwin and Bruno Weil

There is a performance that I will remember for the rest of my life. I am not alone in this. I was in the audience at the Klang und Raum Musikfestival in Irsee, Germany, where conductor Bruno Weil and resident orchestra Tafelmusik were to perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. 

Right from the start we all knew that this was a special performance, as Bruno and the orchestra created thrilling tension with the crescendo leading up to the triumphant fourth movement. It felt like Bruno, the musicians, and the audience were all going to explode with excitement. It was riveting. Equally exciting was the fact that the adventure continued with magnificent music-making together in Toronto, on tour, at international festivals, and in the recording studio.

In my first few years as Managing Director at Tafelmusik, we were on a very strict budget. Financially, life at Tafelmusik was, let’s just say, thrifty.

A few years later, I told Music Director Jeanne Lamon that we had saved up enough money to do a major recording. With her trademark big smile, Jeanne said, “Just so I’ve got this right, you are saying that I can actually spend money?!” We brainstormed ideas and she slept on it. The next day she came into the office and said “Beethoven.” I asked Bruno right away if he would be interested, to which he replied, “Of course!”  

Before getting on with the story, here is some background. In 1990, my predecessor Ottie Lockey negotiated an exclusive contract with Sony Classical for 40 recordings, and Tafelmusik became the first group signed to Sony’s new Vivarte label. It was SONY producer Wolf Erichson who was the original matchmaker for Bruno Weil and Tafelmusik, a partnership that resulted in many superb recordings for the label. When the SONY contract concluded, the friendship between Bruno, Jeanne, and the orchestra continued to blossom.

Bruno Weil directing the orchestra at Klang & Raum festival in Irsee, Germany

When Bruno created the new Klang und Raum Musikfestival, he invited Tafelmusik to participate as orchestra-in-residence. The festival ran annually from 1993–2011, featuring performances of music by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert … and Beethoven. Jeanne and Bruno were internationally acclaimed, idealistic, energetic, and sincere musicians. Both were honest, genuine, and loyal to the core. It was this deep trust and friendship between Bruno and Tafelmusik that enabled such beautiful music making.

Now you all know how meticulous and gruelling the recording process can be, as the musicians aim for perfection with every note and phrase. Bruno would start each recording session with long takes so that the music-making was passionate and had context. The producer would then have the musicians isolate problematic bars and phrases, recording them as often as needed. This process is psychologically and physically tough for the musicians, but this experienced group is always in for the punch. 

In 2005 Bruno and Tafelmusik recorded Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies at George Weston Recital Hall in Toronto. At the end of the recording day for the Fifth symphony, there were several minutes left in the session.  Bruno said to the exhausted orchestra, “Let’s just read through the first movement of the Sixth so we’re prepared for tomorrow.” As no one thought this initial take mattered, everyone was totally relaxed.

One never knows when the brilliant moments will happen in music, but this was one of them. The sound that came out of the orchestra was fantastic. I was backstage and didn’t dare flinch. When they finished, I ran to the recording room and Analekta recording producer Carl Talbot took off his headphones with mouth agape, clearly in awe. Jeanne ran in and said, “Did you get it???” Then Bruno came in and asked the same question. Tafelmusik won a JUNO Award for this recording. We joyfully went on to record all nine Beethoven symphonies on the Tafelmusik Media and Analekta labels. 

The depth and beauty achieved time after time is what happens when excellent artists share the road, their hearts, and of course, their significant talent and commitment to the music they love.   

If this is what heaven is like, may it be beautiful and familiar territory for us all.  

Tricia Baldwin is Executive Director of the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon where she and her team are focusing on cultural knowledge keeping initiatives assisting with intergenerational transfer of First Nation cultural practices far into the future. Prior to her current post, she was Director of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen’s University from 2014 to 2022, where she established three national competitions to celebrate top emerging Canadian talent, a multi-platform IMAGINE arts incubator for Canadian artists, and the co-creation of the M.A. in Arts Leadership program for emerging leaders. Tricia was the Managing Director of Tafelmusik from 2000 to 2014, when the orchestra continued to thrive on the local, international, recording, and television stages while renovating Tafelmusik’s beloved home venue, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. As with many “Tafelmusik alumni,” Tafelmusik and the dear Tafelmusik family remain the most beautiful experience of Tricia’s life in the arts.

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