House of Dreams, Tafelmusik
Presented by Musica Viva
City Recital Hall
Sunday 1 March
Canadian Baroque Orchestra Tafelmusik last toured Australia in 2012, taking their Galileo project around the country. In 2015 they’re back with their latest multimedia experience, House of Dreams, a concert beautifully styled as a journey to five vital cities of the Baroque era: London, Venice, Delft, Paris and Leipzig. The five-part performance, charmingly narrated by seasoned board-treader Blair Williams, travelled detailed recreations of five real-life private homes (one in each city), in which great composers and musicians would have gathered to rehearse, perform or simply engage in the pleasures of music-making. An immense projection screen on stage, bordered by an ornate frame, bore an immersive slideshow of European masterworks, many of which still hang in these five private homes, creating a stunning visual focal point for the concert’s narrative.
Two things struck me about Tafelmusik. First, they are simply superb musicians. Their sound is bright, refined and terrifically satisfying, every chord hitting the nail sweetly on the head. Second, they look like they are having the time of their lives when they perform. As with the Galileo project, House of Dreams was performed from memory. Free from the constraint of music stands, their passion for music was unmistakeable as, beaming, they dipped and wove around the stage, responding to one another and to the audience, even occasionally stepping into the audience as they played.
The first house, in London, focused on George Frideric Handel and in particular his concerti grossi, selections of which were performed with remarkable verve. In Venice, the music of Antonio Vivaldi was on display, as was the talent of bassoonist Dominic Teresi, whose expressive and technically dazzling reading of the Allegro from Vivaldi’s E minor bassoon concerto was a highlight. The third house, in Delft, the Netherlands, showcased perhaps the greatest English composer Henry Purcell, who travelled to Delft to serve as composer-in-residence for the Dutch King William III. Violinists Julia Wedman, Aisslinn Nosky and Patricia Ahern elicited audible gasps from the audience during their jaw-dropping performance of Purcell’s Fantasia in Three Parts upon a Ground, as lines of nimble counterpoint burst oh-so-sweetly from their bows and fingertips.
Marin Marais provided the soundtrack for the Paris house, the Suite from Alcyone blending dance tunes into tempests, aided by the vivid sea-faring images projected onto the screen. In Leipzig, the house of the Bose family played host to Johann Sebastian Bach, and here oboists John Abberger and Marco Cera brought their substantial technical prowess to a gorgeous Largo after an aria from Cantata BWV135. Telemann’s overture from Water Music proved a fitting close, before a final, joyous reprise of the concert’s opening Handel selections brought House of Dreams full circle.
Without a doubt one of the most immersive, inspiring and life-affirming performances I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, House of Dreams was a consummate work of art and it begs the question of where Tafelmusik will go from here. I’ll be there, wherever it is!
Luke Iredale for SoundsLikeSydney©
Luke is a choral tenor, clarinetist and writer, and earns a crust working in Arts Management with UNSW’s Music Performance Unit. He enjoys the music of Schubert, Howells, Dylan and Hetfield.