Returning for their third Australian tour, Canadian baroque orchestra Tafelmusik presents a program devoted to the genius of JS Bach. Devised by the group’s double bass player, Alison Mackay, this narrated multimedia presentation focuses on Bach’s life in Leipzig: the artisans and instrument makers on whom he relied; and the structure of the society in which he played several important roles. Regaling the audience with all of this interesting information is genial narrator, Blair Williams, whose delivery is blessed with clarity and wit. (It was good to note that in the Leipzig of Bach’s day musicians were considered a cut above lawyers.)
The accompanying images, both still and moving, are wide-ranging, covering everything from paper making and instrument making to the sheep that safely graze. The pace of the projection (designed by Raha Javanfar) is also slow enough not to detract from the music.
Mackay’s concept makes sense of the seemingly odd selection of music with its succession of single movements and its alternation of ensemble and solo items. Along the way we were treated to some memorable moments, such as the sumptuous opening of wedding cantata, Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten(BWV 202) interpolated into the third Brandenburg Concerto (BWV 1048).