Jeanne Lamon: The Seasons by Joseph So
/ March 2, 2003
As Music Director of Toronto's internationally renowned Tafelmusik Baroque
Orchestra, Jeanne Lamon has been directing from her familiar first violin chair
since 1981. Two seasons ago, Lamon made her conducting debut--from the podium
and without her instrument--in a highly acclaimed concert that featured soprano
Isabel Bayrakdarian and the Royal Conservatory of Music Orchestra. This
performance had the distinction of being a world premiere--the expansion and
realization by Canadian composer Derek Holman of Susanna's alternate aria from
The Marriage of Figaro, based on Mozart's musical fragments that
survived. A seasoned performer, Lamon has guest-directed many orchestras
throughout Canada, such as Symphony Nova Scotia and orchestras in Windsor,
Kitchener-Waterloo, Calgary, Vancouver, and Victoria, always bringing to the
stage her own brand of virtuoso music making. Recently, Lamon spoke to LSM on
"the Tafelmusik Event of the Season"--the Toronto premiere of Haydn's The
Seasons, and about directing in general.
Why Haydn's "The Seasons" for Tafelmusik?
It's a masterpiece that unfortunately does not get performed as much as I'd
like. I guess Mozart has sort of taken over in this repertoire. The
is a big choral piece--unusual in that it is secular, with lots of humour and
fun. Haydn is very fond of nature, which he describes beautifully in his music.
This piece has never been done in Toronto, at least to my knowledge.
Why did we choose this work? Tafelmusik has been the orchestra-in- residence
at the Klang und Raum Festival in Germany for the last ten years. Haydn's The
Seasons has been the centerpiece of the festival for the last five years and
the musicians grew to adore this work. Several members of the orchestra wanted
us to do it at home. Here we were, playing this great stuff in Europe and our
home audience doesn't know it. Much like a child wanting to show mother and
father their accomplishments in school, we wanted to bring it to Toronto. One of
Tafelmusik's jobs is to bring rarely performed music to our audience--there is
so much fantastic Baroque music that never gets played! If it is 'old' music,
like Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, we try to do it in
a different way. We hope we have earned the trust of our audience so that if we
do a work, our listeners can be assured that it is great music.
How do you prepare "The Seasons" musically?
One doesn't prepare it any differently than any other piece. It is important
to understand the pictorial imagery in the music. The music and the text are so
beautifully melded together in this work. It really shows Haydn at his best.
Mozart on the other hand never depicts details of nature--like a bird or a
brook. Mozart is very emotional, but also very abstract. Haydn on the other hand
gives us green grass and bright sun in The Seasons.
You had a very successful conducting debut with the Royal Conservatory of
Music. Would you like to conduct more?
I am glad I had the opportunity to conduct that concert, to work with Isabel
Bayrakdarian. It has helped me in my work as first violin. Would I conduct more?
I'll always prefer to lead from the first violin chair. It takes away the
barrier--the sense of an authority figure, the conductor waving a stick. You
take any orchestra in Canada, and there is usually a parade of conductors. Doing
it from the first violin chair on the other hand, I am one of the orchestra, one
of the players. I am doing the same work as the musicians. Sometimes if it is
necessary to conduct, I will, but I feel that I have more to offer when I play
and lead from the violin. I can do it well, and I get the best results from
What are your thoughts on women conductors in general?
It makes no difference whether it is a man or a woman. But it's interesting
that it has taken so long for the emergence of women conductors. So much of
conducting is about persona, about the hero figure in our culture. Women don't
play that role in our culture. So many male conductors--not all, but many--fall
into the trap of the power game, the ego trip. Yes, there is still resistance
against women conducting, but it is melting. Right now we have women leading
orchestras in Buffalo, Atlanta, and Denver. But one thing still waiting to
happen is to have a woman assigned to a major post. Until that happens, there is
still a 'glass ceiling' for women conductors. I see it not so much as breaking
the barrier as melting the barrier. Today, the vast majority of
conducting students, the 20- and 30-year-olds, are girls. What does that say for
the future, 20-30 years from now? When I was a girl, there were few women
doctors, but now there are as many women doctors as men.
If you were to do it over again, would you study conducting? If you were
to stop playing, would you conduct?
You mean if I were 20 or 30 years old now (smile)? I wish I had taken courses
on conducting when I was starting out. But I love playing the violin--I
would miss that! I love my job directing from the chair. I am one of the
group--it's very important to me. If I could no longer play, would I conduct
more? That's an interesting question! I don't know; I can't look into the
future. But I hope I'll never stop playing the violin. The moments that
feed me as an artist are the private moments, the moments of practicing in my
own studio. People say we draw inspiration from the audience; yes, but you need
first to find this inspiration inside--that's my
Jeanne Lamon will be in her first violin chair for
Haydn's The Seasons, conducted by Bruno Weil, March 7 & 8, 8:00 p.m.,
Massey Hall, Toronto. (416) 964-6337.
Tafelmusik soon to turn 25
In 2003-04 Tafelmusik celebrates twenty-five years of outstanding artistry in
period performance. Tafelmusik's Silver Anniversary Season includes famed guest
soloists and directors and the creation of new works. Tafelmusik will build new
audiences for the future through The Four Seasons: A Cycle of the Sun
documentary film project with world musicians, performances in satellite
venues including the George Weston Recital Hall and the Royal Conservatory of
Music, and international touring. The ensemble will continue in its commitment
to training future period performance musicians at the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer
Institute, and through educational programmes for young