As is customary, each concert features a local artist to begin the program.
This time it was Katherine Flaherty; a lovely soprano who offered two familiar and most enjoyable song selections. She had a perfectly clear tone for Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and gave a lovely gentle version of Puccini’s “O Mio Bambino Caro.” She was ably accompanied by pianist Alex MacArthur.
Trio D’Argento comprised of: Sibylle Marquardt on alto flute, flute and piccolo; Peter Stoll on E flat and B flat clarinets, and Bass clarinet; and Todd Yaniw, piano started their program with Haydn’s “Trio in D” Originally for other instruments, it was arranged by Peter Stoll. The music was light and bubbly in the hands of the trio.
The bass clarinet provided some unique sounds to the ensemble in this work, which originally had the part for cello. Camille Saint-Saens’ (1835-1921) “Tarantella”, marked Presto non Troppo — “Very fast but not out of control” (my translation) showed the trio’s ability for precise ensemble and neat playing.
The third set of pieces were by bassoonist-saxophonist Russell Peterson (b.1969). Peterson is an associate professor of music studies at Concordia College in Minnesota. His “Trio for Flute, Clarinet, and Piano” (2009) was the first piece in the program that wasn’t an arrangement. It started mysteriously, depicting a desolate desert scene with chant-like melodies. This gave way to a lively market scene with all its hustle and bustle.
The trio controlled the changes in character with breathtaking ease. There were colourful overtones created by the flute and clarinet; both in their highest registers. Peterson’s piece ended with a whirling dervish of sound in the Allegro. After this piece, some sonic soothing was required, and it arrived with Jacques Ibert’s “Deux Interludes.” Ibert (1890-1962) was an actor, composer and silent film pianist. We were bathed in lovely melody and soothing sonorities from the trio.
Kevin Lau, born in Hong Kong, became the Toronto Symphony’s affiliate composer in 2012; holding that position until 2015. His “Musica Universalis” gave the trio an opportunity to unleash their arsenal of instruments into the realm of Quantum Physics- the awe of the universe. Movement one called “Frozen Fire” started with the pianist creating a shimmering effect on the upper part of the keyboard; one could imagine the array of colours occurring when light strikes the ice surface. “Singularity” (2nd movement) helped us envision a black hole in the universe.
”The End of Eternity” used musical styles from Bach’s fugues, Beethoven and romanticism. During these pieces, we heard piccolo, flute, Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, and bass clarinet and of course the virtuosity of Yaniw the pianist.
The last programmed piece was “Techno Parade” by Guillaume Connesson (b.1970). In this piece, we heard some prepared piano (placing objects on the strings) and jazz flute. At times it sounded like a video game. The trio immersed themselves into the turmoil of the piece and came out the winner using their incredible virtuosity. The enthusiastic audience demanded an encore and got two: The Duet from “Lakme” by Leo Delibes (1815-1910) originally for two sopranos, but skillfully arranged for the trio; and the “Pink Panther” by Henry Mancini. What a night it was.