“A treasure for Torontonians to celebrate and cherish.” —Barcza Blog

And just like that, Tafelmusik’s 45th anniversary season has come to a close. In addition to presenting ten dynamic concerts, we completed our first tour since 2019 to the US, along with a new live concert recording for future release on the Tafelmusik Media label.

The Sound of Beauty was a perfect theme for our season curated by Tafelmusik’s Artistic Co-Directors —violist Brandon Chui, bassoonist Dominic Teresi, and violinist Cristina Zacharias, together with Tafelmusik Choir Director, Ivars Taurins.

Whether at home in Toronto or on the road, each thrilling performance sparkled like a candle on our multilayered, multiflavoured birthday cake. We are filled with gratitude for our audience, for our donors and supporters, and for the guest artists who stoked the celebratory spirit of this season.

“Tafelmusik is a giant in the musical world, one of our few world-calibre Canadian musical organizations, and a symbol of what Canadians can do on the world stage.” —Omnium Gathering

Tafelmusik was delighted to welcome back BMO as Season Presenting Sponsor for a third consecutive season. We are extremely grateful for their support, together with that of RBC Emerging Artists Project — sponsor of the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute — and the Azrieli Foundation for our Passions Revealed US Tour.

A look back at highlights of 2023/24

We kicked off Tafelmusik’s 45th anniversary celebration in style with some of our dearest friends, including conductor Bruno Weil and former Tafelmusik cellist Christina Mahler, who made the journey from Victoria to join the orchestra for this once-in-a-lifetime reunion.Our close collaborator for more than three decades, Maestro Weil led our all-Beethoven season opener, which paired the brilliant Symphony no. 4 and the iconic Symphony no. 5.

There was no doubt Friday night in Koerner Hall that our beloved purveyors of period style had something significant and profoundly idiomatic to say about the great Ludwig van under the direction of Bruno Weil.” —Ludwig van Toronto

Cherished Tafelmusik alumna, violinist Aisslinn Nosky, led the orchestra in Passions Revealed, an energetic program of music by Telemann, Vivaldi, Marais, and Bach. Aisslinn also joined us stateside for our Passions Revealed US Tour, with stops in Columbus, St. Louis, New Haven, Ithaca, New York, and Charlottesville, including an outreach concert for Friendship Village retirement residence in Columbus and artist training at Yale and Cornell universities, among other highlights.

“If you listen carefully, you can hear the fury at times, along with the polite and sensual tenderness of the softer moments. This is the essence of the Baroque music played by Tafelmusik; emotional, intimate, and introspective.” —Ithaca.com

Harpsichordist and guest director Kristian Bezuidenhout struck a chordwith audiences in Transformations, a program that explored a kaleidoscope of musical metamorphoses by way of Bach, Rameau, Purcell, Avison, and Handel.

Kristian Bezuidenhout led the musicians deftly and with much warmth as he himself also played beautifully. The acoustics are excellent. A wonderful concert, thank-you!” —Tafelmusik audience member

A pinnacle of our 45th anniversary season was Staircases, a multimedia program created by former Tafelmusik double bassist Alison Mackay in collaboration with the acclaimed American bass-baritone and composer Jonathan Woody. In words, images, and music, Staircases explored our complex historical inheritance, including the difficult truth that many favourite works of baroque music, art, and architecture were partly financed by the proceeds of slavery. Along with music by baroque composers, Staircases featured the premiere of The Unbounded Soul, an important new work by Jonathan Woody. 

“Sumptuous visuals and lovely playing of excerpts from assorted concerti, suites and sonatas … The history lesson is artfully supported by new music by Woody combined with Wheatley’s poetry which takes us on a journey from the despair of the enslaved to a passionate invocation of the power of human creativity.  It’s moving and very beautiful.” —Opera Ramblings

In 2023/24 we welcomed three astonishingly talented violinists making their Tafelmusik debuts as guest directors. Emmanuel Resche-Caserta, the French-Italian concertmaster of Les Arts Florissants, directed Vive la différence, a deep dive into the playful rivalry between French and Italian baroque styles. Zefira Valova, the Bulgarian concertmaster of Il Pomo D’Oro, injected vibrant energy into Bohemian Rhapsody: Benda and Haydn, while the irresistible Spanish violinist Lina Tur Bonet brought the house down with Fantasticus, a program inspired by the daring and innovative musical stylings of the 17th-century.

“The concert was simply magnificent. Lina Tur Bonet was so very good, both in imparting knowledge and in leading the concert itself. Each performer was excellent, and the novel staging worked beautifully. And I’d never heard of any of those composers! Please have her back!” —Tafelmusik audience member

The awe-inspiring Tafelmusik Chamber Choir under Ivars Taurins repeatedly brought audiences to their feet with four gorgeous programs. The first, Choral Kaleidoscope, offered a prismatic array of European musical styles through the eyes and ears of some of the greatest composers of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Of course, the holiday season would not be complete without Handel’s Messiah. An international cast of guest soloists, including Rachel Redmond, soprano; Cameron Shahbazi, countertenor; James Reese, tenor; and Enrico Lagasca, bass-baritone, joined the choir and orchestra for three sparkling performances at Koerner Hall.

“The Tafelmusik forces sounded fabulous, with a sound that’s smooth as silk that rivals the great church acoustics.  Ivars Taurins knows the Orchestra like the back of his hand. His conducting is highly nuanced and well-judged. Watching his conducting is positively mesmerizing.” —Ludwig van Toronto

G. F. Handel himself made a surprise appearance at Union Station, leading astonished commuters together with Tafel fans, the orchestra, and choir in a rousing “Hallelujah” chorus. A huge hit, this free public event was the perfect warm-up for our first Sing-Along Messiah since 2019. 

“It’s been a holiday tradition for me since 2004 and I look forward to hearing those immortal words, ‘In here…life is beautiful!’ “  —Tafelmusik audience member.

In March, Ivars led an exceptional choral program combining Bach motets with the haunting beauty of Georgian music. The collaboration with Ori Shalva, Canada’s foremost experts in Georgian polyphony (Shalva Makharashvili, Andrea Kuzmich, Shalva-Lucas Makharashvili) and special guest Nick Moss Gillespie, resulted in a powerful musical experience.

Our 45th anniversary season wrapped up in spectacular fashion with A Handel Celebration, Tafelmusik’s salute to one of the greatest musical dramatists of all time. Guest soloists Amanda Forsythe, soprano, and Thomas Hobbs, tenor, joined the choir and orchestra for these vitalizing concerts, which were recorded live for future release on the Tafelmusik Media label.

“An absorbing evening of truly brilliant performances … There were no dull moments in a program perfectly balancing solo and choral numbers. On occasions such as the concerts this weekend, they are as good as anyone in the world, certainly a treasure for Torontonians to celebrate and cherish.” —Barcza Blog

We were also delighted to continue our long-standing partnership with Opera Atelier this season for two sumptuous productions: Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice and All is Love, bothunder the baton of David Fallis.

Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute and Festival

In June, musicians from around the world joined Tafelmusik for four free concerts in three different venues as part of the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Festival. The performances were presented in conjunction with the 22nd annual Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute (TBSI), a top-tier training program led by Tafelmusik musicians and distinguished guests.

“Never before have I felt so challenged, so inspired, and so incredibly and overwhelmingly thrilled by learning and by making music. I leave TBSI with renewed confidence and passion, amplified vision, and new-found inspiration.”
—TBSI participant from Australia

Community collaborations

Throughout the 2023/24 season, Tafelmusik invited new audiences to join the conversation. Through community collaborations, we offered a wide range of concerts in various venues, with programs featuring different types of repertoire and experiences, including three packed Sunday afternoon concerts at the Toronto Botanical Garden; a highly successful return to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection; and two concerts at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of the Making Her Mark exhibition.

“Thank you for your joy in the music which you exude for audiences worldwide and bless you for your joy and commitment to bringing out the best in the music and the people.”  —Tafelmusik audience member

Digital Series Pass

Tafelmusik’s Digital Series Pass returned in 2023/24, offering on-demand access to three full-length digital Tafelmusik concerts: Bach’s Library, with guest director and harpsichord soloist Francesco Corti; Grand Voyage: The French Baroque, with violinist and guest director Leila Schayegh; and Passions Revealed, with guest director and violin soloist Aisslinn Nosky, as well as in-depth lectures and pre-concert chats with artists.

“Love, love, LOVE the Digital Series! I get to see and hear my favourite concerts over and over.” —Tafelmusik audience member

On the airwaves and beyond the concert hall:

Tafelmusik’s reach extended locally and internationally thanks to broadcast media features and behind-the-scenes interviews with guest artists and members of the choir and orchestra.

Wholenote Magazine published in-depth stories covering two season highlights: our Beethoven reunion and the premiere of Staircases, while the Toronto Star showcased Aisslinn Nosky in a Saturday feature.

Tafelmusik’s presence on CBC networks included violinist Julia Wedman, who hosted an episode of This is My Music, the weekly program heard by hundreds of thousands of listeners across Canada. In March, local radio show Metro Morning featured a segment about Staircases with host David Common in conversation with guest artist Jonathan WoodyMetro Morning reporter Mary Wiens visited us to learn more about Beethoven’s towering Fifth Symphony with conductor Bruno Weil and former Tafelmusik cellist Christina Mahler. Meanwhile, the morning show Y’a pas deux matins pareils on Radio-Canada, CBC’s French-language sister network, featured several interviews with Tafelmusik’s own Ivars Taurins, Julia Wedman, and Roseline Lambert, as well as guest directors Lina Tur Bonet, Zefira Valova, and Emmanuel Resche-Caserta.

The New Classical FM hosts Mark Wigmore (The Oasis) and Kathleen Kajioka (A Little Night Music, and Zero to 1800) broadcast several interviews including chats with Tafelmusik’s Executive Director Glenn Hodgins, Choir Director Ivars Taurins, and guest artists Cameron Shahbazi, Lina Tur Bonet, and Zefira Valova.

In October, Canada’s multicultural network OMNI TV aired an Italian-language television segment featuring an interview with guest director and harpsichordist Emmanuel Resche-Caserta.

Tafelmusik also made its mark on digital streaming platforms like Spotify, which reported more than 8.5 million listens across 183 countries for 2023. 

Comings & Goings

Musician playing the oboe

As the season drew to a close, we said a fond farewell to two Tafelmusik core musicians, oboist

John Abberger and bassist Pippa Macmillan.

As Tafelmusik’s principal oboist since 1989, John has made a significant and lasting contribution, both on stage and behind the scenes. Though his passion for our repertoire, beautiful lyrical playing, and deep musical knowledge will be profoundly missed, we are grateful that John will remain part of Toronto’s early music ecosystem as Artistic Director of the Toronto Bach Festival.

Pippa joined the orchestra in 2019 and impressed everyone with her incredible musicianship, virtuosic skills on the double bass, and warm presence on stage and off. She will be greatly missed as she starts the next chapter of her life in Australia. As Pippa says, “musicians have a way of meeting up in all corners of the globe, so I’m sure this won’t be the last Tafelmusik and I see of each other!” Audiences will have a chance to say good-bye to Pippa when she returns to play the 24/25 season-opening Mozart concerts.

Soprano Susan Suchard, a cherished and long-time member of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, has retired after this season. An accomplished professional chorister, choral conductor, teacher, and mentor, Susan has sung with many of Canada’s top choirs, including the Elmer Iseler Singers, Elora Festival Singers, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and Canadian Opera Company Chorus. Over the past 22 years, Susan has made a significant contribution to the evolution of our own choir.

Musician playing the double bass
Bouquet of flowers with a fig and a half cut tomato on a pile of books.

As we look ahead to September, we can’t help but feel excited about all that the 2024/25 season will bring. This feast of incredible performances starts with the passion and vitality of our new Principal Guest Director, Rachel Podger —who directs three programs over the course of the season— and ends with the soul-stirring charisma of soprano Samuel Mariño.

We also look forward to the release of our inaugural recording with Rachel and our first Asia tour since 2016, not to mention reconnecting with guest artists Amandine Beyer, violin; Alfredo Bernardini, oboe; and Naghmeh Farahmand, percussion; and the Tafelmusik debuts of guest director Miloš Valent and multi-instrumental virtuoso Jan Rokyta in an exploration of baroque and folk music traditions. We can’t wait to collaborate with an array of superb singers, including Hélène Brunet, Cecilia Duarte, Charles Daniels, and Jesse Blumberg in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and Myriam Leblanc, Krisztina Szabó, Jacob Perry, and Philippe Sly in Handel’s Messiah.

We wish you all a fabulous summer and invite you to join us again for our 2024/25 lineup, a season to savour!

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