Baroque 101 for First-Timers

Baroque music was composed between about 1600 and 1750. Some of the more famous baroque composers include Bach, Vivaldi and Handel. It’s the core of our repertoire, but we also perform classical (from about 1730 to 1820, including the music of Mozart) and early romantic music. Baroque music can involve improvisation, small or large groups of players, and sometimes instruments rarely seen (like the theorbo and cornetto).

Tafelmusik is a chamber-sized orchestra, which means you’ll usually see 15 to 20 musicians on stage, although this number can vary. For baroque orchestral programs, we are usually directed by a violinist. For programs with our choir, and for later classical/romantic programs, we work with a conductor. The orchestra plays on period instruments—the instruments for which the music was written (some are over three hundred years old!)—and according to historical performance practices (i.e., the style at the time). The Tafelmusik experience is often described as being more intimate than that with a regular symphony orchestra.

You can find out more about the orchestra and choir in our About section. Read our blog to learn more about what we do, and visit our YouTube channel and Spotify to watch and listen—there are videos, interviews, and whole albums for you to check out. You can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to see what we’re up to.

In 2003, Tafelmusik recorded an album devoted to the music of Joseph Bologne, titled “Le Mozart Noir”. A subsequent re-release of the same album, in 2016, featured abstracted, stylized artwork that obscured and erased Bologne’s face. We recognize that by using the title “Le Mozart Noir”, and by using artwork that depicts the composer with an abstracted blank face, we have contributed to and facilitated the erasure of Joseph Bologne and his legacy. We regret, and apologize for, these actions. With the goal of properly centring Bologne’s achievements, this recording has been reissued under a new title, The Music of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Newly commissioned album artwork by Toronto painter Gordon Shadrach and an essay by American conductor and Bologne scholar Marlon Daniel accompany the re-release, in order to properly depict Bologne. Learn more about this project here.

We’re so happy you have questions! Email and we’ll do our best to get you answersour musicians and staff keen to keep the conversation going.