La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Usual Best from Gryphon Trio

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

The Gryphon Trio is the kind of chamber music ensemble that tends to please listeners even when playing something as demented as Charles Ives’ Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano.

Actually, make that demented with a sick joke and some right notes and some wrong ones, said Gryphon Trio’s pianist, Jamie Parker, in his pitch to try and “undersell” the piece from the stage.

It worked. The listeners took in Ives’ witty, dissonant and satirical piano trio, which shifts its mood from dark to light to drunkenness and fury, with delight and admiration. Of course, Parker, violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon and cellist Roman Borys delivered their usual best at their Music Toronto concert at the Jane Mallett Theatre Nov. 18. Much intelligence and many biting harmonic renditions were on displayed from all three players here. The second movement, titledTSIAF (“This Scherzo Is a Joke”), was at times riveting with excitement and the moderato con moto finale evolved from one of the weirdest landscapes of sound to one of the most ethereal and lovely ever written and played.

The Gryphon Trio opened the concert with something much tamer than the Ives’ trio, Beethoven’sTrio in B flat, Op. 11, written originally for clarinet, cello and piano and featured in the Gryphon Trio’s latest CD of Beethoven trios. The trio demonstrated probing musicianship in this cheeky three-movement work, also known as the Street Song Trio, with stylish phrasing and a liquid chemistry. The variations in the finale rolled gracefully with virtuosity. Everything sounded so natural, so easy.

After intermission, listeners were treated to a young Canadian composer’s work that came out of one of Gryphon Trio’s educational initiatives. Rothko Sketches, inspired by the Russian-born American painter Mark Rothko, was composed by Joseph Glaser, an alumnus of the 2010 Young Composer Program at Earl Haig Secondary School’s Claude Watson School for the Arts. Glaser, who is currently enrolled in the composition program at the University of British Columbia, probably wrote the short piece with synesthesia in mind, creating minimalistic segments based on colours such as orange, blue and yellow. Whether or not you can hear the colours, the result of the composition is a surprisingly tender and organic undulation of Rothko’s signature abstract and blurry blocks of paintings. It left me wishing there was more to explore after the last note was played.

The program concluded with Dvorak’s Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 65. Here, the Gryphon Trio dispatched bursts of uncanny richness throughout this defiant yet poignant piece of work. Borys’ cello solos sizzled each time, Patipatanakoon matched him with unfaltering poise and Parker, who looked and sounded totally relaxed, was in top form from beginning to end.

The concert will be heard on In Concert on CBC Radio 2 on Feb. 13.

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