Daina Janitis reviews the first Jeffery Concert of the 2019-20 season: the Gryphon Trio

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When my husband and I came to London more than 50 years ago, newly married, fresh from mid-city Toronto and U of T, wondering if living there had made us …perhaps… a little worldlier – I admit that London’s ways and habits were difficult to understand. An all-purpose Centennial Hall- but no creaky, wonderful Massey Hall where we saw Seiji Ozawa conduct and sat on the stage to hear Andre Segovia play his guitar.  An orchestra with musicians second to none- and a limited audience, spotty management, and scanty funding. A mysterious lawyer who dabbled in music- and supported a series of concerts in a small hall that were never advertised but annually sold out via subscription…did we need a secret handshake to ever hear one?

But living in London- or on its outskirts- for those fifty years has made London’s advantages dearly beloved. Not too big, not too small. Great place to raise a family, but requiring diligence to get suitable jobs here. Halfway between Toronto and Detroit- and glad to not be either. Good place to work- and to volunteer.

And by volunteering, you grow to realize what makes London so special: individuals with passion and heart trying to make London the best place to live and grow – and the Jeffery Foundation is just one of them. Propelled by Gordon Jeffery’s legacy, the volunteer board members continue to bring world-renowned trios and quartets to London, year after year. Their magnificent support of the Wolf Hall stage area has made it a jewel of chamber music performance space- not too big, not too small. The annual series remains perfect – not too long, not too short.

For the first concert of 2019, the Jeffery folks nabbed their friends, the Gryphon Trio. Their pianist- and announcer- the brilliant Jamie Parker – admitted his trio’s affection for London came partly from receiving one of their three Juno awards here last year. The Gryphons have been building a worldwide reputation for 25 years, committed to “redefining chamber music for the 21st century”. They have commissioned over 85 new works, toured North America and Europe, released 23 recordings (with exquisite covers!) and given masterclasses everywhere.

They continue to inspire upcoming musicians and audiences with their educational outreach program called “Listen Up”, with bases in Etobicoke and Ottawa. The cellist announced that their “classical music cruise” with AMA Waterways on the Rhine is sold out for 2020- and what a dream holiday THAT would be! When they are not on the water, they’ll be directing the 2020 summer classical music program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Reviewing a concert for people that were not able to attend always seems a tad pointless to me – those that were there rose to their feet in a standing ovations- a bit creakily for some of us- and demanded the beautiful Haydn encore felt deeply what they were applauding.  I’m sure that they would agree:

  • That Parker’s piano dominated- as it was meant to do- the first Haydn Trio where the violin and cello often double the piano line. (in Haydn’s day fortepianos were “tinkly” in sound and needed some strengthening from other instruments)
  • That all three musicians were impeccable on the sparkling runs in this piece
  • That the Minuetto final, in a minor key, added mystery in the lower keyboard range

AND

  • That the Brahms Trio No.2 in C Major was a stretched- out composing task between his major symphonies and most famous orchestral overtures
  • That his friend Clara Schumann (if you want all the dirt on this friendship, you have to attend the London Symphonia concert on September 29th) made him run this trio by her – and SHE chose another one in E-Flat that he later destroyed!
  • That its four movements are packed densely with musical jewels- and all the instruments get brilliant equal billing

AND

  • That Jamie Parker is s stellar emcee- much of the wit of our Ralph Aldrich- when he introduced the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 2 as “ a Jason Bourne movie” type of piece- car crashes, hide-outs, strung-out nerves, and romantic interludes.
  • That he was RIGHT! – our audience was on the edges of their seats throughout the “energico e con fuoco” first movement, the “molto allegro quasi presto’ third- and the final “allegro appassionato”.

And that secret society that I used to think ran the Jeffery series? – working their what-nots off during the concert are Ralph with programs- wittiest commentator on music ever! There’s Ingrid, devoted to the Foundation but also managing the London Youth Symphony- and mothering the cellist who will be one of the world’s best. Vocal professors Frances and Alvin are vigilant and welcoming throughout- and Dr. David now devotes his astrophysical expertise to music for Londoners. Oh- and my son’s first bassoon teacher- Diane- is there looking not one jot older.

Go to their website if you don’t have the season brochure: http://www.jefferyconcerts.com/season1920/concerts1920.html    and find out what’s coming.

Meanwhile, I’m dashing around town to pick up silent auction items for our own amazing London chamber music group- Magisterra Soloists International (October 11th)-and showering silent blessings on the symbiosis of London musicians and their admiring volunteers. We’re all hoping to make London not too elitist…not too homely …just perfect!

Daina Janitis, September 22, 2019

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