Anne Thorp, President of the Carmel Music Society, addressed the audience at the beginning of last night’s concert at All Saints’ Church by the Gryphon Trio and told us that originally a different group of musicians had been scheduled for this evening’s concert. However, after they unexpectedly cancelled, the Society immediately booked the Gryphon Trio for a reengagement based on the enthusiastic response to the Trio’s previous appearance here a year ago. This was our good fortune!
The players, violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon, cellist Roman Borys and pianist Jamie Parker, generated a lot of excitement in their performance a year ago. Once again they had arrived here from their native Canada in winter, where we understand the lingering remnants of an early snowfall helps to remind Canadians what real winters are like. Added to their enjoyment of the Monterey Peninsula’s balmy weather, the musicians sounded at their best in the fabulous acoustical environment of Carmel’s All Saint’s Church.
Sometime we hear routine, academic performances of Haydn Piano Trios that sound like curtain raisers and warm-ups to what some might call the “really expressive” and “really exciting” music of the 19th and 20th centuries. This was certainly not the case last night, for the musicians gave us a hair-raisingly brilliant and satisfying performance of the Trio in G Major, Hob. XV:27. The dominant star here was pianist Jamie Parker, who was astonishing in his extraordinary and masterful playing. He has it all ― virtuosity, refined elegance, stylistic purity and the added panache of making it all look incredibly easy. In this work his partners had less important parts, especially cellist Borys who was basically playing a continuo part duplicating the bass line of the piano. Anyway, we had lots of opportunities to hear pianist Parker play beautiful passages that he imbued with more clarity and significance than we thought possible, and we heard a fantastically brilliant final Presto movement that was awesome. (“Hello, Guinness Book of Records. We want to report a new world’s record for the fastest final Presto movement of Haydn’s Piano Trio Hob. XV:27”).
In case anyone was feeling sorry for cellist Roman Borys having to noodle his way through the bass line of the Haydn Trio, in the opening moments of Dvořák’s “Dumky” Trio we suddenly heard Borys, the world-class cellist, suddenly emerge into the limelight and demonstrate how beautifully and expressively he can play. Wow! What gorgeous tone! It was fabulous, and there was much more to come. Violinist Patipatanakoon also was heard in some strong and earthy playing, and then we had pianist Parker showing us his nineteenth-century virtuosity that was big, bold and tremendously exciting. The “Dumky” trio is a dazzling work, full of gypsy rhythms, lovely melodies and constant contrast between agitated and more poignant moments.
Ending the program the musicians performed for us Beethoven’s Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97, the “Archduke Trio.” Coincidentally, we had heard the “Archduke Trio” a few weeks previously in Sunset Center, but the performance by members of the Gryphon Trio on this occasion was on an entirely different and more exalted level. It was a pleasure hearing this mighty work played by three musicians whose years of experience allowed it to emerge with new vitality and freshness.
The enthusiastic response by the audience brought us a reward of two encores, both by Piazzolla ― “Oblivion” and “Autumn.” The first was a surprise, for the expected Tango elements were subordinated to lovely schmaltzy melodies; however the second encore was like a Tango on meth. These were knockout performances.