The long search for Jeanne Lamon's successor is finally over. The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra announced Thursday morning that Italian violinist Elisa Citterio would become the Toronto orchestra's music director, effective in July – only the second person ever to hold that position in the organization's 38-year history.
As music director, Citterio will be responsible for Tafelmusik's overall artistic leadership, including concert planning, touring, recording, education and artist training – an enormous range of responsibilities.
Citterio is a world-renowned baroque violin soloist, currently based in Milan, who has performed with a number of superb Italian baroque ensembles including Fabio Biondi's Europa Galante, and has been a member of the famed La Scala Orchestra since 2004. She also has an extensive solo career, along with harpsichordist Stefano Demicheli and violinist Stefano Montanari. She and her family, including a new baby, will be moving to Toronto when she formally begins the job in July.
In taking up the post of music director of Tafelmusik, Citterio is picking up the bow left silent by the retiring Jeanne Lamon in 2014, after 33 years in the job. But Tafelmusik started looking for Lamon's replacement a year before she officially left, in 2013. That means that Citterio's appointment comes at the end of a four-year process of interviews, listening, conversations, assessments and reassessments – a patient, methodical search, a hallmark of Tafelmusik's professionalism, that looked at candidates from around the world.
One of Tafelmusik's criteria for selection was a demand that every serious candidate play with the orchestra twice as a guest conductor. Citterio was the last of the shortlisted candidates to do so, her second visit to the band opening the current Tafelmusik season last September. She gave a remarkable concert, full of grace and style, with a fresh approach to baroque music that was invigorating. The orchestra seemed to delight in her leadership, and I'm sure I wasn't the only member of the audience that night to wonder what it would be like if this charming, thoughtful woman took over the band. Soon we'll know.
Citterio assumes the musical directorship of Tafelmusik at an interesting point in its history. An exceptional ensemble, with both a national and international reputation, Tafelmusik's stability has been its strength, but also presents it with challenges – to build on its success, try out something new and move into the next phase of its organizational history. With those possibilities come risks as well as rewards. Starting this summer, Citterio, leading the rest of the Tafelmusik team, will be the person to help the orchestra begin its future.