Tafelmusik reviewed in the Manly Daily

Steve Moffatt, The Manly Daily
March 6, 2012

THERE can’t be many music groups with an asteroid named after them, but there aren’t too many bands, either, like Canada’s greatly-acclaimed Baroque and early music specialists Tafelmusik.

Ten years in the making and more of an event than a concert, Musica Viva’s 2012 season opener hit heady heights with their performance of the Galileo Project, incorporating a celestial slideshow of more than 70 astounding images of planets and stars.

The project, linking the Italian scientist’s life and work with the music of his time through a cleverly-scripted narrative, was devised by Tafelmusik’s double bass player Alison Mackay in 2009 to mark the 400th anniversary of the invention of Galileo Galilei’s telescope.

It is not commonly known that the great man’s father was a composer and lutenist and one of the most respected musicologists of the 16th century. Galileo himself played the lute and counted Claudio Monteverdi among his friends.

Actor Shaun Smyth read excerpts from letters and transcripts of Galileo’s trial when he was denounced for heresy. Also woven into the program were the lives of two other great figures in astronomy – Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler, whose theory that the planets “sing” led him to notate each of their tunes.

These were adroitly worked into Bach’s How brightly shines the morning star and the Sinfonia from the cantata We thank you, God, we thank you which closed the evening.

Before that, unhindered by music stands and performing an 80-minute program from memory, the group was free to wander in an intricately choreographed routine, at times orbiting the stage like the planets projected on the screen behind them, at others fanning out into the auditorium.

Under their music director of 30 years Jeanne Lamon, the 17 musicians took the audience through some glorious slices of Vivaldi, Lully, Rameau, Monteverdi, Purcell, Handel and Telemann – along with some of their lesser known contemporaries.

All of this was neatly held together by the versatile Smyth with excerpts from Shakespeare and, on a lighter note, an amusing anonymous astronomical drinking song which foreshadowed Monty Python’s Philosophers Song by 200 years.

Crescent Moon and Venus by Alan Dyer

The project has been performed all over the world and Tafelmusik added a southern hemisphere element to this tour with a beautiful extract from the Dreamtime, Emu dreaming, which showed how the Aboriginal people were able to track the transit of Venus.

Musica Viva’s chief executive officer Mary Jo Capps said it had taken 10 years to get Tafelmusik over to Australia. The wait was well worth the while.


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Welcome to Musica Viva’s International Concert Season blog. Here you can follow and read more about our wonderful touring artists.

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