Tafelmusik reviewed in the Adelaide Advertiser

Elizabeth Silsbury, The Advertiser
March 13, 2012

BEAUTIFUL images, beautiful music, beautiful words, all feeding off each other.

On a giant disc suspended in front of the pipe organ glorious, mysterious images of the sky’s heavenly wonders, including some from our own downunder part of it, are projected, along with the infinitely wise faces of astronomy pioneers Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. Red spots on Jupiter, transit of Mercury, Saturn with its moons, Great Balls of Fire, 74 of them altogether, glowing in brilliant colors, appealing to the most discerning painterly eye and liberating the earthbound mind.

Music of the astronomists’ times Vivaldi, Lully, Rameau, Purcell, Bach is elucidated by the 10 strings, two oboes, bassoon, lute doubling guitar and harpsichord. They play everything from memory standing, walking, circling the continuo like planets around the sun, dancing even to remind us that all this lovely stuff came from dances.

A tender Toccata for lute solo by Michelangelo, nephew of Galilei, excerpts from Orfeo, grand entrances for Venus and Mercury from operas by Rameau.

Then a rather fiddly setting of Bach’s Morgenstern and his Wir danken dir, Gott, (or whoever it was who gave us the harmonic series) wir danken dir to round off a veritable feast for the senses and the brain.

Preceding each item, matched readings. From Shakespeare (Lorenzo, of course “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank”) and from Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

There were also letters the illustrious scientist and lute player writing of his despair on his incarceration for heresy Newton’s amanuensis extolling his mentor, from the lesser known but highly significant Johannes Kepler and his whimsical Harmony of the Spheres theory.

Custom made for Australia, lit by the Southern Cross and the Milky Way, an evocative compliment to our ancient heritage, Emu Dreaming.

The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres was conceived and scripted by Alison Mackay, double bass player of Canada’s Tafelmusik.

Jeanne Lamon is the music director of a group of consummate musicians, any one of whom can step up to the solo plate. Lucas Harris is the lilting lutenist. Shaun Smyth recites and reads his many texts with rare intelligence and sings as agreeably as he speaks in the bucolic The Astronomical Drinking Song.

Mackay’s scholarship underpins and informs every moment and every aspect of this truly remarkable and original concert. Musica Viva has been wooing Tafelmusik for 20 years. Well worth waiting for.


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