Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra was formed in Toronto, Canada, in 1978. It is a period instrument orchestra; that is, the group makes use of instruments (or replicas) dating from the same period as the music they perform. The orchestra also performs according to appropriate performance practices -- how the music would have been read, and how the instruments would have been played -- in an effort to recreate the sounds and the esthetic of Baroque-era music (ca.1600-1750). The name Tafelmusik is German for "table music," referring to music that would have been performed at banquets: the term comes from German Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann's multi-volume collection of table music. The group is based out of Trinity-St.Paul's Church in Toronto.
The orchestra had humble beginnings: in 1978, it was a small Baroque chamber ensemble, formed and led by bassoonist Susan Graves and oboist and recorder player Kenneth Solway. In its early years, Tafelmusik was a four-member chamber group, with a small yearly concert season. The core instruments of the group -- oboe and recorder, cello, bassoon, and harpsichord -- were bolstered by soloists, guest artists, and other musicians as required. The popularity of the ensemble grew, due in part to the rise in popularity of period-instrument music in the 1980s, and Tafelmusik was able to increase its membership over the course of the next four years. To a core of eleven players was also added the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir in 1981, thus enabling the group to add Baroque choral music to its expanding repertoire (the group is well-known for its performances of Handel's Messiah and of Bach's choral works).
The gradual enlargement of the ensemble, under the leadership of music director and concertmaster Jeanne Lamon, allowed for the performance of large-scale works: no longer merely a chamber ensemble, Tafelmusik was now able to offer performances of Baroque orchestral music. Tafelmusik's burgeoning success also brought about the group's first recording in 1982, entitled Popular Masterpieces of the Baroque. In 1984, Tafelmusik was invited to tour in Europe, and became the first North American Baroque orchestra to do so; since then, the orchestra has visited the continent regularly, including numerous tours in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, and England. The orchestra has been recognized in Europe as being the equal of some of the best European Baroque orchestras, and has met with great success there.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, new international recording contracts led to wider dissemination of Tafelmusik's recordings, and the group has since received numerous Canadian and international awards and accolades for its performances and albums, including five Canadian Juno Awards, a Cannes Classical Music Award, and a "Critic's Choice" citation in BBC Magazine. Tafelmusik's discography comprises over fifty recordings, including recordings of Mozart's Requiem, Vivaldi concertos, excerpts from Handel's operas and from the Messiah, and of course, music by Telemann.
As of 2000, Tafelmusik had a core of 19 musicians, which is augmented as necessary. The concert season at Trinity-St. Paul's had grown from six concerts a year in 1978 to 45 concerts a year. The orchestra's touring schedule included visits to Europe, Asia, and frequent performances in the United States. Tafelmusik was also the orchestra in residence at the Klang und Raum Festival in Irsee, Germany.~ Rovi