Freddy’s Tune

phrygiangateLast night’s Soundstreams concert at Trinity St. Paul’s riffed off the basic idea of Bach’s Musical Offering; getting musicians to create music on a theme with a high improvisory element.  The line up was the Gryphon Trio (Roman Borys, cello; James Parker, piano; Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin), SlowPitchSound (aka Cheldon Paterson); turntables, Dafnis Prieto; drum kit, Scott Good; trombone, conductor and Roberto Occhipiniti; bass.  Things started out with SlowPitchSound remixing prerecorded fragments of the Musical Offering with live interventions by the trio.  It was interesting and fun though whether it revealed “secret messages” I really couldn’t tell.  The turntables reappeared between items in the rest of the program in very short fragments that seemed too cursory to have much to say.

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Classics Reimagined

I’ve seen Robert Pomakov and the Gryphon Trio perform together a few times now and it’s always interesting.  Today’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was no exception.  Four of Mozart’s concert arias for bass and orchestra, arranged for string trio by Bohdana Frolyak, were interspersed with movements of Heather Schmidt’s Lunar Reflections; a 2008 piece commissioned by the Gryphons inspired by the moon in different seasons of the year.  It was stimulating.  The concert arias (K.432, K.513, K.512 and K.612) all showcase the bass voice with tectonic low notes and plenty of opportunity for virtuosity.  I think they suited Robert pretty well.  He’s perhaps not the most subtle of singers but he’s exciting (and loud!) and the trio accompaniment provided so much more than piano alone could.

The Schmidt piece was also enjoyable.  It’s fairly approachable and the five movements are quite varied.  The first two; Blue Moon and Pink Moon, are quite lyrical, even lush in a slightly post romantic sort of way then comes Wolf Moon which is in an altogether darker place; slower, louder and more dissonant with lots of work for the low notes on the cello.  Snow Moon continues in a slower, somewhat dissonant vein but is much lighter textured and the piece concludes quite violently with the aggressive and abrasive Thunder Moon which puts serious demands on all three players but especially the piano.  Unsurprisingly, I feel I’ve probably not done this piece justice.  I find I need to hear work of this kind more than once to fully appreciate it.

Robert Pomakov with members of the Gryphon Trio

Yesterday’s lunch time concert featured bass Robert Pomakov accompanied by members of the Gryphom Trio.  The programme kicked off with two songs by Glinka with Bob accompanied by Roman Borys on cello and Jamie Parker on piano.  The first piece was called Lullaby but it’s hard to imagine anyone sleeping through Bob’s powerful rendering.  The second piece, Doubt, showcased some lovely playing by Borys.

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The price is right

simoneThe best bargain of the Toronto music season is the free lunchtime concert series at the Four Seasons Centre.  The 2013/14 line up was announced today.  Opera and vocal highlights include recitals by Sir Thomas Allen (Songs of the Sea, which sounds rather excellent), Simone Osborne, Robert Pomakov with The Gryphon Trio, Tracey Dahl, Russell Braun and Paul Appleby.  Somewhat off the beaten track, there will be a performance of Gagliano’s La Dafne by Capella Intima and the Toronto Continuo Collective and the Canadian Art Song project will be premiering a new commission by a Canadian composer.  There will also be the usual (and very popular) sessions from the COC Ensemble Studio (including two Britten themed concerts), the students of the University of Toronto opera division and the young artists of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.

For the less vocally inclined there is also a full line up of piano, chamber music, world music, jazz and dance.  Here’s the full PDF brochure.

Gryphon Trio with Robert Pomakov

Gryphon_085v1(1)Back to Koerner Hall last night for a concert of chamber music and art song.  Anchoring the show were the Gryphon Trio.  They kicked off with the Debussy Piano Trio in G Major.  This was an enjoyable and compact piece with a very playful second movement.  Then came what was, for me, the main reason for going, Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death.  For this the Gryphons were joined by Toronto bass Robert Pomakov.  He was excellent.  Obviously completely at home singing in Russian he produced a nuanced reading of text and music.  His acting with the voice was exemplary and no extraneous physical acting was required.  His control of dynamics was exemplary.  He has a really big voice which he deployed as appropriate but he was also capable of floating a lovely pianissimo.  Accompaniment from the Gryphons was also well up to par.  There are some interesting instrumental lines including making the cello go about as low as a cello can to match the bass voice.  Continue reading

Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder

Today’s free lunchtime concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was given by Canadian bass, Robert Pomakov and the Gryphon Trio (Annalee Patipatanakoon – violin, Roman Borys – cello, Jamie Parker – piano).

First up we got Parker and Pomakov performing Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.  Pomakov has a big voice as I knew from having heard his Monterone twice this month at the Four Seasons Centre.  I was impressed by how well he could scale back his volume and even more impressed by the wide and appropriate range of tone colours he deployed.  He doesn’t sound entirely secure at ppp but for a voice of his type he was pretty good!  Next the Gryphons gave us the Elegia from Arensky’s piano trio.  I don’t know this work at all but they sounded very accomplished and musical.  The finale was Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death in Gary Kulesha’s arrangement for voice and piano trio.  This time Pomakov could let rip with all his considerable power accompanied with equal fervour by the Gryphons.  The whole thing was very impressive and very loud!

The scary thing is that Pomakov has only just turned thirty and already has this huge sound.  Apparently he’s had it for a while because he’s sung in twenty COC productions going back ten seasons. I did check out Youtube to see if I could find Pomakov and there is one clip of him singing the Russian National Anthem at the World Cup of Hockey in 2004. Here it is.