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Tafelmusik Tours US with Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House, February 28-March 10, 2018

December 3, 2018 | By Allison Abbott
Publicity Associate, Hemsing Associates

At a Time of Worldwide Uncertainty Regarding Immigration, Tales of Two Cities Explores How Cultures Enriched Each Other in 18th Century German & Syrian Coffee Houses

Tafelmusik, Canada’s renowned and internationally lauded Baroque orchestra, will tour the United States from February 28 to March 10, 2019, with Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House, a multi-media exploration of the rich musical tradition and innovation of 18th-century coffee houses in Germany and Syria. The program, which will be directed for the first time by recently appointed Music Director Elisa Citterio, unites musicians from Western and Arabic traditions in a magical fusion of narration, projected images, and music, and will feature works by Bach, Handel, and Telemann, alongside traditional Arabic music.

Reviewing Tales of Two Cities, writer Paul E. Robinson called it a unique vehicle for “hope that different cultures can learn to embrace and even enrich each other…” that “draws attention to what we share and what we have shared for centuries” (Ludwig van Toronto, December 13, 2017).  This sounds an optimistic note at a time when the United States and Germany, as well as other European nations, find themselves conflicted over differing immigration policies, and Syria is embroiled in a protracted war.

Performing entirely from memory, Tafelmusik is joined by Trio Arabica, a classical Arabic musical group featuring Maryem Tollar (voice, qanun), Naghmeh Farahmand (percussion) and Demetri Petsalakis (oud). Returning to work on yet another multimedia program with Tafelmusik, Raha Javanfar has designed projections for this production. Also collaborating on the production are Stage Director Marshall Pynkoski, Production Designer Glenn Davidson, and Narrators Alon Nashman and Maryem Tollar.

The Globe & Mail named Tales of Two Cities “a phenomenon that was unexpected and powerful,” (May 20, 2016) while The Huffington Post cited it as “entertaining, educational, musically rewarding and visually arresting” (May 26, 2016) when the program was premiered in Toronto in 2016. Both Leipzig and Damascus were seats of intellectual creativity in the 1700s; pairing the two cities to create this musical presentation was the inspired idea Tafelmusik’s award-winning double bassist Alison Mackay, whose previous multi-media productions, such as The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres and J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation, have caught the imagination of critics and audiences worldwide.

“Our orchestral life has been greatly enriched by our encounter with Syrian music and art,” says Alison Mackay. “We have been so inspired by the virtuosity and expressiveness of our colleagues from the world of classical Arabic music as we seek to portray the authentic essence of our two traditions. At the end of the concert a special energy is created as we cross the borders into each other’s musical world to find a joyful way to sing and play together.”

The tour begins at Penn State University’s Schwab Auditorium in State College, Pennsylvania on Thursday evening, February 28, 2019, 7:30 pm. The orchestra will give two performances in Colorado, first on Monday evening, March 4, 7:30 pm at the University of Colorado in Boulder’s Macky Auditorium Concert Hall, and at the University of Denver’s Gates Hall on Wednesday evening, March 6, 7:30 pm. On Friday evening, March 8, 7:30 pm, Tafelmusik will bring Tales of Two Cities to Stanford, CA, performing at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall. On Saturday evening, March 9, 8 pm, the tour proceeds down the coast to Santa Barbara, California, at the Lobero Theater. The tour concludes Sunday evening, March 10, 2019, 7:30 pm, at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA.


Full program information below:        


Ouverture in D Major, TWV 55:D18


Badat Min al Khidri


Yammul ‘Uyoun Issoud


Ritornello from Orfeo, Act II

Omar Al Batsh

Ya Malikan


Cadmus et Hermione, "Chaconne"


Concerto for 4 violins in G Major, “Largo” and “Vivace”


Trio Sonata in F Minor, Op. 2 No. 5, “Allegro”


Concerto in G Major for viola, “Presto”


Tish Nign (18th-century Klezmer tune)


Dulab Bayat


Concerto grosso in G Minor, Op. 6 No. 6, “Musette”


Darij Bayat


Ouverture reprise


Concerto grosso in D Major, Op. 6 No. 6, “Allegro”


Concerto for violin in E Minor, Op. 8 No. 9, “Allegro”


Oud Taksim


Burlesque de Don Quixote


     “The gallop of Rosinante / That of Sancho”


     “His attack on the windmills”


Musique du Table, Book III, “Conclusion”

J. S. Bach

Sinfonia, after “Ehre sei Gott” from Christmas Oratorio

Sheik Abul Ela Mohamed

Afdihi in Hafidhal Hawa Ow Diya’a (lyrics by Ibn Alnabi)


Percussion improvisation

J. S. Bach

Canata No. 42, Adagio following “Wo zwei und drei versammelt sind”


Ritornello from Concerto in E Minor TWV 52:31


Tala’a Min Beyt Abouha

About Tafelmusik:                 

Hailed as “one of the world’s top baroque orchestras” by Gramophone Magazine, Tafelmusik is a group of remarkably talented, enthusiastic, and dynamic permanent members, each of whom is a specialist in historical performance practice.

Delighting audiences worldwide for nearly four decades, Toronto-based Tafelmusik reaches millions of people through its touring, critically acclaimed recordings, broadcasts, new media, and artistic/community partnerships. The vitality of Tafelmusik’s vision clearly resonates with its audiences in Toronto, where the orchestra performs some 80 concerts every year for a passionate and dedicated following of all ages. For over 35 years Tafelmusik has maintained a strong presence on the world stage, performing in some 350 cities in 32 countries, making it Canada’s most toured orchestra.

In January 2017 the orchestra announced the appointment of Italian violinist Elisa Citterio, only the second Music Director in its history, who seeks to uphold Tafelmusik’s reputation for innovative and creative programming, blending familiar masterworks with rare gems, with her unique approach to period performance. Former concertmaster and soloist with the orchestra of the Accademia del Teatro all Scala di Milano, Maestra Citterio studied with Franco Gulli, Corrado Romano, Dora Schwarzberg, Matis Vaitsner, Ilya Grubert, and Dejan Bogdanovich. The orchestra is often joined in performances by the critically acclaimed Tafelmusik Chamber Choir under its director Ivars Taurins.

Endeavoring to make connections between their traditional repertoire and modern audiences and issues, Tafelmusik has developed new cross-cultural collaborations, performs each season as the house band for Toronto’s Opera Atelier, offers a Sing-Along Messiah with Mr. Handel at the podium, as well as the Haus Musik series held at local bars, making theatricality and outreach a trademark of the organization’s work.

Tafelmusik has invested much energy and many resources into supporting the next generation of period performers through its artist training programs, most notably through the renowned annual Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute and Tafelmusik Winter Institute. Musicians from around the globe gather to study period performance in intensive and varied programs.

An integral part of Tafelmusik’s worldwide success has been its highly esteemed discography of over 85 baroque and classical albums on the Sony, CBC Records, Analekta, and since 2012, Tafelmusik Media labels, which have garnered many national and international awards, including nine JUNO Awards. Among recent releases is a recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, completing Tafelmusik’s cycle of Beethoven Symphonies with conductor Bruno Weil, live-performance CDs of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Handel’s Messiah, and DVDs of three of Tafelmusik’s most popular performance events: Sing-Along Messiah, and Alison Mackay’s The Galileo Project, House of Dreams and Tales of Two Cities. Elisa Citterio’s first recording with the orchestra, Vivaldi con amore, will be released in March 2019.

For a video trailer and for more information, please visit   


Thursday, February 28 – State College, PA
Venue:             Schwab Auditorium
Time:               7:30 pm
Presenter:        Center for the Performing Arts, The Pennsylvania State University
Tickets:            For tickets ($15-$44), please call (814) 863-0255 or visit

Monday, March 4 – Boulder, CO
Venue:             Macky Auditorium Concert Hall
Time:               7:30 pm
Presenter:        CU Presents Artist Series, University of Colorado
Tickets:            For tickets ($10-$65), please call (303) 492-8008 or visit

Wednesday, March 6 – Denver, CO
Venue:             Gates Hall, The Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver
Time:               7:30 pm
Presenter:        Denver Friends of Chamber Music
Tickets:            For tickets (10-$30), please call (303) 871-7220 or visit

Friday, March 8, 2019 – Stanford, CA
Venue:             Bing Concert Hall
Time:               7:30 pm
Presenter:        StanfordLive, Stanford University
Tickets:            For tickets ($38-$90), please call (650) 724-2464 or visit

Saturday, March 9 – Santa Barbara, CA
Venue:             Lobero Theater
Time:               8 pm
Presenter:        Masterworks Series, Community Arts Association of Santa Barbara
Tickets:            For tickets ($39-$49), please call (805) 963-4946 or visit

Sunday, March 10 – Los Angeles, CA
Venue:             Walt Disney Concert Hall
Time:               7:30 pm
Presenter:        Baroque Series, The Los Angeles Philharmonic
Tickets:            For tickets ($20-$109), please call (323) 850-2000 or visit

For further information, please contact Hemsing Associates at (212) 772-1132 or visit
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