Jeanne Lamon, who conducted an early music ensemble, dies at 71

Jeanne Lamon, accomplished violinist who was musical director of the Tafelmusic The 33-year Baroque orchestra and chamber choir, helping to make it one of the most acclaimed Baroque ensembles in the world, died on June 20 in Victoria, British Columbia. She was 71 years old.

A spokesperson for the ensemble said the cause was cancer.

Ms Lamon, who lived in Victoria, took the helm of Tafelmusik in 1981, just two years after the Toronto-based group was founded by Kenneth Solway and Susan Graves. Under her leadership – and with her often at the head of the first violin chair – the group developed an international reputation, performing all over the world in major concert halls, in universities, in churches, even in churches. pubs.

Tafelmusik also rose to prominence for his recordings, releasing dozens of albums on Sony Classical and other labels during his tenure.

Ms. Lamon and the ensemble pursued a goal of rendering the works they performed as their composers would have imagined them, using period instruments in the process. One of Tafelmusik’s first appearances in New York City was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Ms. Lamon performed the museum’s 17th-century Stradivarius.

The results could be striking, as in a 1995 recording of Bach’s violin concertos.

“Beyond their impeccable discipline and luminous textures, the group displays an expressive sensibility that transcends instruments, whether they are strung in gut or wire,” wrote Lawrence B. Johnson in a review of this album. album for the New York Times. “This expressive empathy is conveyed with force in the Adagio of the Concerto in E major, where, with a measured step, Jeanne Lamon spins a radiant and sad line which could be a silent tune of a Bach Passion.”

Yet Ms. Lamon didn’t just recreate music that is centuries old; she wanted to make it attractive to a modern audience.

Never has this been more evident than in “The Galileo project: Music of the Spheres ”, a multimedia performance featuring music by Vivaldi and others, projections of astronomical scenes and the like, an actor providing the narration and an unfettered orchestra. For the piece, conceived and scripted by Alison Mackay, the ensemble’s bassist, and unveiled in Calgary in 2009, which the United Nations declared the International Year of Astronomy, Ms. Lamon asked her musicians to memorize their parts so that they can move around in the performance. space, including in the audience, while playing.

“Put simply, this is one of the best and most imaginative classical music-based shows seen here in years,” John Terauds wrote in The Toronto Star when the work was performed in this city later. this year. “Including the intermission, these two hours pass as if they were 10 minutes. There isn’t a single boring or off-grade moment.

Memorizing the equivalent of an entire evening of music was a tall order for Ms. Lamon and the other musicians, but she found the experience liberating.

“I’m starting to see the desks as a wall between me and the audience,” she told the Houston Chronicle in 2014, the year she left her job as music director, when “The Galileo Project” was performed at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston.

The piece also traveled to Pennsylvania State University that year. In a video interview linked to the performance, Ms Lamon said she believed the work showed a way to expand audiences for early music and other classical genres.

“You don’t just have to play pop concerts, which some symphony orchestras resort to when they want to fill the seats,” she said.

“I think stopping him is not the way to go,” she added. “I think people just want to feel more involved.”

Jeanne Lamon was born August 14, 1949 in Queens and raised in Larchmont, NY Her father, Isaac, was in real estate and her mother, Elly, was a teacher. Ms Lamon said the musical genes she had probably came from her mother, who played the piano.

She was fascinated by the violin from an early age.

“I remember when I was 3 years old watching Isaac Stern play on TV,” she told the Toronto Star in 1986, “and I wanted to do what he was doing. I immediately told my parents that I wanted a violin.

She had to wait until she was 6 for her parents to buy her an instrument, and it was a recorder, not a violin. But she pursued them and at 7 she got the instrument she wanted.

“Learning to play an instrument is like learning a foreign language,” she said. “If you learn it young, it becomes part of your body.”

Her father, however, thought a general education was important, so instead of going to a conservatory, she attended Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where she earned a Bachelor of Music degree. Then she went to Amsterdam to hone her violin skills, studying with Herman Krebbers, concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. There she heard a concert of baroque musicians.

“I immediately fell in love,” she said.

She began to study with Sigiswald Kuijken, one of the greatest baroque violinists in the world.

Back in the United States, she was performing with various ensembles when Mr. Solway and Ms. Graves asked her to come to Toronto to conduct a guest program with their new group. They appointed her musical director.

Among its legacies is the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, which trains musicians in baroque performance. In 2006, the organization created the Jeanne Lamon Instrument Bank, which lends period instruments to students.

Ms. Lamon’s numerous awards included the Order of Canada. She is survived by her partner of many years, cellist Christina Mahler; one brother, Ed; and a sister, Dorothy Rubinoff.

Ms Lamon said part of the appeal of playing early music was that it involved a certain amount of detective work and guesswork, as composers of old often left only the most sketchy sheet music.

“We’re expected to perform a lot, for example by adding dynamics, phrasing and adornment,” she told The Globe and Mail in 2001. “That’s what attracts a lot of people. us to play this music. It’s a very creative process. You do a lot of research to figure out what a songwriter could have done, but in the end, you do what you do, because no two people would do it the same.


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