(1949 – 2021)
“I’d like to know when I die (that) this (Tafelmusik) is going to continue. It is my legacy.”
Music Online. Under the Radar
Welcome to our Sunday music section
“Notable Canadian Jewish Performers.”
By David Eisenstadt
TORONTO. January 22/23 – Jeanne Lamon broke a glass ceiling in 1981 after she was named Music Director of the Toronto-based Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. She was the first woman to hold that position and over 33 years, helped build it into one of the globe’s most acclaimed international baroque ensembles, which was formed in 1979 by Susan Graves and Kenneth Solway.
Her sister Dorothy Rubinoff told me that when Jean took the reins of the orchestra, she changed her first name to Jeanne, to “avoid anyone thinking that Jean Lamon was a French man.”
Ms. Rubinoff recently urged me to take a serious look and possibly write about her sister’s career. So I did, and it’s impressive.
Born of Dutch Jewish ancestry in Queens, New York on August 14, 1949, their parents Isaac and Elly (née Rabbie) Lamon, living in Larchmont, NY, knew that Jean Susan Lamon was interested in music. Jean (Jeanne since 1981) told the Toronto Star in 1986, “I remember seeing Isaac Stern playing on television and I wanted to do what he was doing. I told my parents immediately I wanted a violin.” She was three. At six, she was given a recorder but finally got the instrument of her dreams and at age seven, began violin lessons.
Her teachers over the years included Gabriel Banat and Editha Braham at the Westchester Conservatory of Music. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music Degree from Brandeis University in Boston where she studied violin with Robert Koff, the original Julliard Quartet second violinist. She travelled to the Netherlands for further study with the then-concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, Herman Krebbers. There she attended her first baroque concert and soon thereafter replaced her more modern instrument with a baroque violin. Jeanne Lamon also studied with Belgian violinist Sigiswad Kuijken.
She returned to the United States and was a concertmaster for period orchestras in Europe and North America from 1972 to 1981 and appeared as a solo performer with many prestigious orchestras. She taught at Smith College’s Early Music Department and after making a couple of guest appearances with Tafelmusik in Toronto, she was offered and accepted the baton. Jeanne Lamon became a Canadian citizen in 1988.
Dorothy Rubinoff said, “It was the perfect job for her. She was 32 and went on to build an ensemble – a family of musicians into a world-renowned orchestra.”
Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times wrote, “Ms. (Jeanne) Lamon and the ensemble pursued a goal of rendering the works they played as their composers would have envisioned them, employing period instruments in the process. One of Tafelmusik’s earliest New York appearances was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Ms. Lamon played the museum’s 17th century Stradivarius.”
Tafelmusik performs Vivaldi, Allegro, from The Galileo Project
Jeanne Lamon helped grow the orchestra through her leadership and performing skills to achieve international recognition as one of the best ensembles in its field. They recorded on Analekta, CBC Records, Nonesuch, Philips, Sony Classical, and Tafelmusik labels. With 85 recordings to her credit, plus annual tours to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, her solo recordings include among others, the Juno Award-winning Bach Brandenburg Concertos, and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Jewish influences were important because “she researched and did Jewish programs because of her interest in Jewish Composers,” Ms. Rubinoff explained.
She also taught at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music and received an honorary doctorate from York University in 1994. Other awards include being the first Muriel Sherrin Award recipient from the Toronto Arts Council in 1996, and the Prix Alliance from Alliance Francais for her cultural contributions reinforcing artistic ties between Canada and France. In 1997 she garnered the Joan Chalmers Award for Creativity and Excellence in the Arts. The Canada Council for the Arts recognized her with the 1998 Molson Prize in the Arts for her lifetime contributions to the cultural and intellectual life in Canada. Jeanne Lamon was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2000, named “Musician of the Year” by the Toronto Musicians’ Association in 2003, and received an Order of Ontario in 2014.
She retired as the orchestra’s Music Director Emerita in October 2012, after a fulfilling career of leading, performing, recording, and touring. She and her life partner/spouse, Christina Mahler (for years a talented cellist with Tafelmusik) retired to Victoria, BC in 2019 and both continued to perform as guest artists.
In 2014, Ms. Lamon told the Toronto Star that “I’d like to know when I die (that) this (Tafelmusik) is going to continue. It is my legacy.” Jeanne Lamon, at age 71 died of lung cancer on June 20, 2021.♦
Tafelmusik as seen on CBC’s The National
Credits: Photo- Dean Macdonell, Tafelmusik; Videos- Tafelmusik/YouTube
-Thank you David, for the wonderful article. – DR, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
-I knew about Jeanne Lamon and while I don’t remember stopping to think about her ethnic identity, I never would have guessed that she was Jewish or from New York. – MK, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
-Just read your article on Jeanne Lamon and didn’t know she was Jewish. I first started to go to Tafelmusik through tickets from House Seats at various venues until they got a permanent home at a beautiful church acoustically on Bloor West near the MNjcc. She had a wonderful group of musicians behind her. – BS, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
David Eisenstadt is the author of Under the Radar, 30 Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians. He is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.
A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in our category section. Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org