Bringing back baroque: a night with Tafelmusik

| Contributing Writer

The Tafelmusik making an appearance at 560 Music Center (Jamie Nicholson | Student Life)

With a mid-sized ensemble consisting of a harpsichord, three wind instruments, and 13 string instruments, Tafelmusik made an appearance at 560 Music Center, March 3. 

Tafelmusik’s performance was part of the Washington University music department’s annual Great Artist Series a program that aims to bring some of the most “exciting artists of our time” to the WashU and broader St. Louis Community. The Great Artist Series features five artists every spring, with this being the third listing for the 2024 run.

Coming from Toronto, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra specializes in performing Baroque-era music productions and its performance on Sunday was no different. The orchestra only performed with instruments common to that unique period of music history: violins, violas, cellos, double bass, oboes, bassoons, and harpsichord. The group also performed pieces from the repertoires of Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi, Fasch. 

Tafelmusik’s precision led to a cohesive and thoroughly constructed sound that unified the group and the performance. The group also played with beautiful expression, putting strong emotion behind every set and transforming these pieces from historical artifacts into living parts of our present world.

Not only was the performance musically captivating, the physical unity of the ensemble was also a spectacle to see live. Instruments rose and fell in perfect succession, strung along by the tempo. When each piece came to its conclusion, bows bowed, heads bowed, and bodies bowed. 

The sight of this orchestra elevated its features from a strictly musical performance to something more lived through its movement, emotions, and passion. It became an experiential performance.

And with such a small ensemble, the sounds of every musician could be picked out: the thunderous bassoon; the bass thundering back; fluttering chimes coming from the harpsichord; a soft viola lifting the harmony from stage-left; a violin rising further above that harmony from stage-right. But altogether, these distinct sounds formed an unforgettable beautiful night of music.

This performance helps bring light to an often overlooked part of our collective musical history and gives students the opportunity to see the necessity of keeping music history alive. If any part of this performance sounded in any way interesting, be sure to check out some of the future Great Artists Series showings on March 24 and April 28, featuring performances by Joyce Yang (on piano) and Christine Goerke (soprano), respectively.


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