Gryphon Trio

The city is spoiled for choice at any given time of the year, with numerous arts and culture festivals aimed at Vancouverites and visitors from abroad. One of my favourite summer traditions has become MusicFest, a 10 day international summer festival that brings world-class talent to Vancouver.

Both my husband and I are classical music lovers and selected three concerts from this year’s vast array of performances.

Friday morning’s Gryphon Trio: Czech Masters concert captured two pieces, Antonin Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90, “Dumky”, and Bedřich Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15. The two Czech musicians provided the trio with numerous opportunities to shine, particularly during the third movement of “Dumky“, with a beautiful, soothing performance of Andante, Vivace non troppo, and Allegretto. This romantic work was first performed in Prague on April 11, 1891.

Smetana lived through much family sorrow in his lifetime, including his first wife’s passing while they were living abroad, three of his six daughters dying in infancy, and his eldest daughter Bedřiška dying of scarlet fever at the age of four. This piece pays tribute to her through the piece’s emotional swings. By the third movement, the tempo is much livelier but later tragic tones reveal a funeral march. Smetana also suffered from both tinnitus and deafness, later committed to an asylum for madness. His works however were both expressive and romantic, and he’s credited for bringing a Bohemian voice to the classical concert hall.

The Gryphon Trio is comprised of three extremely talented musicians: Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin, Roman Borys, cello, and James Parker, piano. They played passionately, despite violinist Patipatanakoon having shredded a few violin hairs off her bow midway through the morning concert. I particularly enjoyed watching Roman Borys; his facial expressions showed a truly spiritual and devoted cellist.

As well, the Christ Church Cathedral offers a beautiful space to enjoy music, with its dark wooden beams and wonderful acoustics, adding so much atmosphere to the music flowing off the stage.

Harry van der Kamp Alexander Weimann
[L-R: Harry van der Kamp, Alexander Weimann]

On Friday evening, we attended the Early Music Festival program at UBC: Love’s Lament: Italian Solo Cantatas circa 1700. This two hour program featured Harry van der Kamp on bass and Alexander Weimann on harpsichord and chamber organ. Van der Kamp is known internationally as being one of the most important bass singers in early music, and matched with Alexander Weimann’s talent made for a sublime evening at the Roy Barnett Recital Hall.

Weimann is also the Pacific Baroque Orchestra’s Music Director.

The duo were joined by Violoncellist Jaap ter Linden, also in town for the festival, and part of Amsterdam’s Gesualdo Consort (Harry van der Kamp serves as Gesualdo’s Artistic Director). Between the cantatas, harpsichord ninja Weimann showed why he’s considered one of the most sought out harpsichordists and chamber music partners of his generation. Munich, Germany-born Weimann has travelled the globe, performing at numerous festivals and teaching master classes from Malmö, Sweden to the University of California in Berkeley.

Harry van der Kamp has a strong, soothing voice that worked beautifully together with both harpsichord and violoncello.

Cassard and Chaplin
[Philippe Cassard and François Chaplin. Photo credit: Jean-Baptiste Millot]

To cap off our MusicFest concert-going with the 150th anniversary of Claude Debussy’s birth, we took in the Deux Pianos: Hommage à Debussy concert on Saturday evening at the Vancouver Playhouse. Debussy is considered by many to be one of the great classical music greats, a composer “without whose investigations of texture, color, form and feeling, the vast majority of the 20th century music could not have been written.”

Two talented French pianists (Philippe Cassard and François Chaplin) shared the ivories of one keyboard in the first half, while the second half saw the addition of another piano on stage. It must require an incredible amount of coordination to work through the first two pieces, Debussy’s Petite Suite, L.65 and Première Suite d’orchestre, L.50 on a shared keyboard, however Cassard and Chaplin made it look effortless on the intimate Vancouver Playhouse stage.

The second half featured three pieces, including the evening’s only non-Debussy composition, Robert Schumann’s Six Etudes in Canonic Form, Op. 56. This beautiful arrangement of six movements was inspired by Bach.

While this was our first time watching a classical music performance at the Vancouver Playhouse, we did note that the acoustics are quite good for the former home of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre.

A fast-paced encore by Ravel was my favourite part of the evening, showcasing the strength and chops of these fine musicians in a fast-paced piece that ended the concert on a passionate note.

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