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WQXR (New York), December 2012

The Most Popular Classical Albums of 2012

Baroque orchestra Tafelmusik has released a CD and DVD set of their multimedia show that celebrates Galileo Galilei’s inventions through music, space images and narration. © 2012 WQXR (New York)

George Chien
Fanfare, November 2012

It’s an exploration of four giants in the history of astronomy, accompanied by the music of their times and illustrated by a series of breathtaking visuals. The music, of course, is played with exceptional verve and sensitivity by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. It’s a special treat for music lovers and astronomy buffs alike. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Bertil van Boer
Fanfare, September 2012

…this project was titled Music of the Spheres, but it does make a fitting tribute to the international Year of Astronomy.

Without a doubt, it is an event, a happening, wherein one finds in the DVD version, at least, a plethora of nonmusical material, from dance to recitation, all with a backdrop of pictures of the solar system taken from probes and the Hubble telescope.

In any case, Tafelmusik performs up to its usual excellent standard…with appropriate tempos, clear sound, good intonation, and energetic playing. Given that these works are all excerpts and done within the context of the filmed event…it is interesting to have a project such as this documented. If you want about an hour and a half of good music, eclectic multimedia performances, and a rather neat take on a special project, then you might want to investigate this double-disc set. It is good entertainment on a night when the stars come out. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2012

Everything [Tafelmusik] plays not only sounds enthusiastic but as if it were freshly written. Just listen to the exquisitely shaded readings of the Marini Passacaglia or the Zelenka Adagio, then turn to the unbelievably enthusiastic readings of music by Lully and Rameau, the uplifting version of the Bach BWV 29 Sinfonia, or the way they bang the tambourine and bounce their way through the “Moresca” from Monteverdi’s Orfeo. This is a group that really knows how to play, and convey its enthusiasm for the music to the listener.

This is a pretty scary group in which every single violinist or wind player is capable of being a soloist on any given number, but that’s just how good Tafelmusik is.

The bonus features of the DVD are what I can best describe as classical-music videos of Tafelmusik playing Rameau’s “Entrance of Jupiter,” Handel’s Allegro, and Lully’s Chaconne from Phaeton. These have remarkable video graphics designed by Electric Square. In the first…the orchestra plays amid a giant pop-up book with pop-up buildings in a town square; as the music progresses and more instruments are heard, the musicians themselves pop up from the ground. It’s extremely clever. In the second video…they’re playing in the midst of a giant astrolabe/gyroscope, floating in space, which is highly effective.

If you are a fan of Tafelmusik or many of the works played here, this set is highly recommended, but if you’re also a fan of astronomy, the combination of the music, visuals, and spoken text is an unalloyed joy. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

George Chien
Fanfare, July 2012

The Galileo Project is a multimedia program developed by the orchestra’s double bassist, Allison MacKay. It is an exploration of the earthshaking discoveries and formulations of four giants of astronomy—Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, and Johannes Kepler—presented with a narrative, eloquently spoken by Shaun Smyth, illustrated by an array of mind-boggling visual images, and accompanied by relevant music, dazzlingly performed by an ever-smiling Jeanne Lamon and her hardy band of collaborators. The members of the orchestra are constantly in motion, always looking, like Lamon, as though they are having a jolly good time.…The music is played with Tafelmusik’s usual flair and vigor. Dare I say, since the orchestra is based not in Québec but in Ontario, with élan ? Tafelmusik has taken The Galileo Project on the road, drawing appropriately enthusiastic responses all around the globe. MacKay draws no little satisfaction from the fact that hits on Tafelmusik’s Galileo Project website are as likely to come from astronomers as from music lovers. She must have done something right. Indeed, she—and Tafelmusik—most certainly did.

The CD presents all of the music from The Galileo Project without the narrative or, of course, the visuals. It’s an interesting program, presented chronologically, but many of the selections are excerpts, and all are necessarily and relatively short. The performances are exemplary…Very highly recommended. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Lindsay Kemp
Gramophone, June 2012

Tafelmusik have found a corker here. The whole is given in front of a suspended circle on to which astronomical images are projected, and the performers move around on a similarly patterned floor, playing from memory, intermingling and reforming (almost everyone gets a solo) amid changing lighting effects. The fascination of this for general viewers is in a resonant linking of the preoccupations and of 17th- and 18th-century music and culture with the radical scientific discoveries of the time, while for lovers of Baroque music there is a simpler joy in hearing familiar music in new contexts and orderings, and fun in waiting to hear what comes next.

Further pleasure comes from the playing of Tafelmusik, an uplifting mixture as ever of ensemble excellence and open generosity of spirit. Shaun Smyth’s readings are clear and committed…This must have made a great show live…and it makes a pretty enjoyable DVD. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Julie Amacher
Minnesota Public Radio, May 2012

“One of the things that’s particularly remarkable about it is that all the musicians have memorized all of the music,” Lamon says. “This is a very unusual thing, and it means there’s no music on stage. There’s a much more direct connection between the musicians and the audience.” This also allows the musicians to become part of the presentation.

There are times when on stage, they represent the stars and planets, “which is the continuo section as the planets revolved around the sun,”…

Jeanne Lamon says The Galileo Project has not just been a fun creative challenge. By releasing it on both CD and DVD, they’re reaching new audiences, from scientific communities to tech-savvy teenagers. © 2012 Minnesota Public Radio Read complete review

René François Auclair
La Scena Musicale, May 2012

Passing through Greek mythologies, as well as the writings of Galileo, Newton and Kepler, the narrator and the musicians invite us along for a fascinating musical and visual journey through time and space. Vivid images of space are projected onto a spherical screen, creating an original contrast with the musicians. They play with no partitions and can therefore move like stars around the basso continuo in amusing choreographies. The enthusiastic playing of Tafelmusik allows us to discover beautiful works, notably Lully’s very rarely recorded ballet suite Phaëton. © 2012 La Scena Musicale Read complete review

Kezzie Baker
Music is Good, April 2012

Heavenly—that’s a concise but accurate description of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra’s newest release, The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres…It’s not only heavenly in its subject matter, but it’s pure heaven both visually and in an aural sense.

…for the first time ever, listening audiences everywhere can experience this one-of-a-kind production through DVD and an accompanying studio-produced CD of the gorgeous baroque music featured in the concert.

The Galileo Project is the brainstorm of Tafelmusik’s double-bass player, Alison Mackay.

What makes The Galileo Project so revolutionary, unique and satisfying is its over-all concept and, more importantly, how that concept is presented…Tafelmusik ups the ante considerably by performing the music in front of a backdrop of a unique 12-foot round projection screen…displaying stunning photographs of the universe from the Hubble telescope…

…the performance is enriched with interspersed narrations by the talented Canadian actor, Shaun Smyth…

Throughout all of this, Tafelmusik’s musicians perform these baroque beauties entirely by memory—a daunting feat which has never before been accomplished by an entire orchestra…What might have seemed a liability actually proved to be a huge asset to the entire performance, as it freed the individual players to participate in some very effective choreography. The result of all this freedom is uninhibited musicians projecting their whole beings into the music and springing it to life…Instead of reading sheet music, they make eye contact with one another as they exchange musical passages in a playful bantering back and forth that makes it obvious they are thoroughly enjoying themselves. Such “conversations” are wonderfully entertaining and provide convincing evidence that music is indeed a language in itself.

…[The Harmony of the Spheres I] opens with a rousing and impressive performance of the first two movements of Antonio Vivaldi’s concerto for two violins in A major from L’Estro Armonico…It’s been recorded numerous times, but Tafelmusik infuses new fire and gusto into this old workhorse that really gets the blood pumping.

Tafelmusik includes here the Rondeau movement from Henry Purcell’s Abdelazer, one of the most enjoyable selections in the program.

A lute concerto in C major by Weiss is a rare treat reconstructed by Tafelmusik’s lute player, Lucas Harris. All that survives of the original manuscript is the solo lute part, but the title page confirms that the lute was accompanied by two violins, viola and violoncello. Lucas has composed the missing parts, and the result is gorgeous.

The program concludes with a return to the “harmony of the spheres” theme in a grand finale of music from none other than the great J.S. Bach. It is in Bach that all the different forms and styles of the baroque come together and are brought to perfection. Tafelmusik beautifully weaves these short tunes of Kepler’s into Bach’s “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star,” as they eloquently bring the program near its conclusion. It is a stunning piece…

There simply could not be a more fitting way to conclude this extraordinary release than by melding the beauty of the baroque with the beauty of the stars in the music of Bach, the perfect conduit to convey the message of the mission of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy—to celebrate the wonders of the cosmos and the achievements of the human spirit. © 2012 Music is Good Read complete review, April 2012

The most unusual of these first Tafelmusik Media releases may prove to be something of an acquired taste, not because of the music but because of its multimedia structure. The Galileo Project takes just under an hour of music (offered on a CD) and combines it with a series of images from Canadian astronomers and the Hubble telescope, for a kind of “fusion” show lasting an hour and a half (presented on a DVD). Packaging that gives listeners/viewers the option of hearing the music on its own or in the context of the visual presentation is a wonderful idea…bass player Mackay, who picked the music and was in charge of putting the show together, chose the works wisely and well, and she and the other members of Tafelmusik perform them with just as much aplomb… The concept of The Galileo Project is scarcely unique, but the amazing visual images, the way the program is put together, and the very fine instrumental playing that pervades it, make the whole thing a most worthwhile experience, whether heard on CD or viewed as it was intended to be when first presented to the public in 2009. Tafelmusik Media has set itself high standards for its releases with this initial crop; but then, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra players always set high standards for themselves, and consistently live up to them. © 2012 Read complete review

Sarah Trigge
Musica Viva, April 2012

The Galileo Project was put together by the Canadian ensemble, Tafelmusik. The group had a beautifully choreographed routine and they moved around the stage as if they were orbiting it—just like the planets which were projected on the screen behind them.

The project included works by Vivaldi, Lully, Rameau, Monteverdi, Purcell, Handel and Telemann and through these pieces, Tafelmusik achieved what I previously thought impossible—they gave the planets and stars a voice. They made them sing. Tafelmusik made the audience fully aware of some of the world’s greatest astronomers and made the audience even more appreciative of the universe that surrounds us. It was an absolutely amazing performance.

It was such a privilege to be able to watch such talented and passionate musicians celebrate the world of science. As I sat in awe, completely inspired by the music I realised, music can enhance any story – fact or fiction. © 2012 Musica Viva Read complete review

John Daly-Peoples
The National Business Review, March 2012

Tafelmusik’s The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres was conceived as a celebration of the work of Galileo for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and brings together science and art to show the links between astronomy, music and the mathematical harmonies of the universe

The company creates an extraordinary production which uses a combination of music, astronomy, theatre, photography, video, mythology, literature and history to build a picture of the growth of music and astronomy in the 17th and 18th centuries

While this account is entertaining and cleverly presented it is the orchestra which shines. Composed of seventeen players they are all brilliant soloists in their own right. Together they are a stellar act.

They gave the early and baroque music a new sense of liveliness and meaning with their unusual playing. Much of the time the players were in groups of two or three, engaged in musical conversations which brought out the musical themes and structures.

They looked more like a cabaret group of fiddlers jamming together, smiling at the musical jokes, competing with each other for bravura performances or the classiest technique

The two cellists in the centre of the stage appeared to have their own, often private conversation with the cerebral, wry Allen Whear dueling with the more emotional, watchful Christine Mahler.

Each of the players displayed an individual temperament and playing style which gave the concert a real sense of dynamism and engagement. © 2012 The National Business Review Read complete review

WQXR (New York), March 2012

…a new CD and DVD release gives us a chance to experience unique fusion of arts, science and culture.

The set comes with a 90-minute DVD featuring the fully staged performance but you can just as easily sample the music-only CD soundtrack, which includes rich slices of Vivaldi, Lully, Rameau, Monteverdi, Purcell, Handel and Telemann, along with some of their lesser known contemporaries. © 2012 WQXR (New York) Read complete review

Elizabeth Silsbury (The Advertiser)
Musica Viva Australia Blog, March 2012

On a giant disc suspended in front of the pipe organ glorious, mysterious images of the sky’s heavenly wonders…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.

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

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. © 2012 Musica Viva Australia Blog Read complete review

Capital Times (Wellington), March 2012

The orchestra [Tafelmusik] doesn’t have a conductor; Lamon directs by playing the violin, and she’s well qualified to do so.

In the show, the musicians play what Lamon describes as “short, positive, fun” pieces from baroque composers including Handel, Bach and Vivaldi.

Magnificent astronomical scenes, many from the Hubble spacecraft, are shown to the audience on a large round screen behind the musicians.

There is also narration “sprinkled” throughout the show and helping to tell stories about Galileo, also Newton and Kepler, two other astronomers of the baroque period.

Lamon is very happy where she is “It’s a great group of people to work with and they’ve got huge talent. Many of the people who were there at the beginning are still there,” she says, “we’ve had so much success—so why leave? It’s too much fun.” © 2012 Capital Times (Wellington) Read complete review

Elizabeth Jigalin
Musica Viva, March 2012

…an engaging, awe-inspiring presentation of an incredibly cohesive and narrative program—enriched with the dramatic charm of actor Shaun Smyth, magical galactic visuals in the foreground, incredible tone and musicality from this out-of-this-world ensemble and of course, seamless choreography.

The concert began with each musician coming together to assemble a picture perfect formation, encompassing the harpsichord and cellists, with each musician exhibiting a sheer look of joy and pride that simply illuminated the passion each one these artists had for the music they were living and breathing.…Tafelmusik exemplify the power of which learning an entire program from memory may have upon any given audience. It is as a result of this very factor that musicians were able to move with freedom around the stage, which when supported with incredible astronomical imagery, created a visually stunning experience.

…items such as an “Astronomical Drinking Song” partnered with merry court dancing! It was then, in contrast, that enchanting pieces of music such as Michelangelo Galilei’s “Toccata” for solo lute partnered with beautiful images of celestial bodies that left audience members truly mesmorised.

Tafelmusik have truly developed a program that is pleasing to many—a program that explores a variety of interests and works yet sustains coherence through the spectacular background visuals, accompanied with immense musicality and passion displayed by all performers. © 2012 Musica Viva Read complete review

John Terauds
Musical Toronto, February 2012

The first Toronto performance of Galileo bowled over its audience…for the vibrancy of the music-making, neat choreography, the gorgeous images projected on a big, circular screen, as well as the carefully chosen texts that provided maximum historical context and personal colour on the origins of our understanding of the planets and their courses with a minimum of words.

Most notable about these shows is how they offer up the Greatest Hits of the Baroque era alongside less well-known fare in a format that gives the first-time audience member a variety of entry points into the music and its context. The presentation is also able to offer the knowledgeable and committed listener possibilities for all kinds of new insights.

This is a remarkable feat.

The fact that Tafelmusik performs the music so vibrantly—all played from memory—makes this even more of a treasure.

The DVD release for Galileo is the full programme, which includes narration by actor Shaun Smyth. The fast-moving camera lens finds a decent balance between close-ups and wider views, always highlighting the associated images, as well.

This album throws in an hour-long, music-only CD of the Galileo Project. A companion booklet offers comprehensive notes.

That said, there are many repeatable hours of listening and viewing pleasure here. © 2012 Musical Toronto Read complete review

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