By Demetrios Kastaris
This article was originally published in NEO Magazine and is reproduced here with the permission of Demetrios Rhompotis, Publishing Committee Chairman of NEO. NEO Magazine
Young Achilles Liarmakopoulos has already made an indelible mark as a rare gem among trombone virtuosos. His vast musical sensitivity, artistry, and exceedingly wide choice of tone colors on his instrument are only equal to his extreme technical abilities. These exceptional technical abilities defy the known limitations on his musical instrument. His range or tessitura is far beyond what is believed to be possible by any stretch of the imagination on the trombone. There is a very long list of reasons that Liarmakopoulos is justifiably put in the category of rare world class trombone virtuosos.
Achilles has an extremely gorgeous timbre and a great deal of passion in his playing. He can also choose to exhibit very impressive technical ability which he makes sound effortless despite the complexities involved. He can sound like a ferocious lion, or a gentle dove. The colors of choice on his musical palette are too numerous to mention here.
Achilles was born in Athens, Greece on August 29, 1985. He grew up in a home where he was nurtured by his loving parents and exposed to numerous genres of music. This may explain why Achilles performs in numerous genres, although his forte is Classical music. When he is not on tour performing concerts around the world he enjoys listening to numerous extremely diverse styles of music in his free time.
Some of Achilles’s most recent stunning accomplishments include passing the rigorous audition to join the legendary Canadian Brass. He currently tours around the entire world with this trend setting top Brass Quintet as his main performing group! They perform at the most elegant of all concert halls. When I witnessed them perform recently with Liarmakopoulos, I noticed right away that the five piece ensemble made up of two trumpets, french horn, trombone, and tuba, each add extremely spontaneous synchronized humor and charisma to top level Classical music and many other genres. This makes their performances very captivating, even to people who have not yet acquired a taste for this type of music. Perhaps audience members may develop new tastes in music after a mesmerizing concert of this excellent ensemble. Prior to being accepted as a full time member of the Canadian Brass, Achilles won the competition to become the Principal trombonist in the Greek Radio Symphony Orchestra (ERT) in December of 2010.
At the age of 18 he performed as a soloist at the Walt Disney Hall as the Grand Prize Winner of the Pasadena Showcase House Instrumental Competition, judged by members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Liarmakopoulos has received awards in a number of competitions, including the Yamaha Music Foundation, and the 2nd Christian Lindberg International Trombone competition.
Achilles holds a master’s degree from Yale University, an artist Diploma from the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, a Bachelor’s degree of music from the San Francisco conservatory, and a Diploma from the Philippos Nakas Conservatory in Athens, Greece. As you can see this is quite a bit of formal training, private trombone lessons, and practice on his instrument. All of his studies have been financially supported by merit-based scholarships from each institution, as well as from the Alexandros S. Onassis Foundation and the Greek State Scholarships Foundation.
Achilles has given solo recitals in the United States, China, Spain, France, The Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Greece, and has performed as a member of many orchestras worldwide. He has premiered a number of pieces from emerging composers who have written specifically for him. This is a great honor for any concert artist. Four complete trombone concertos and many more concert pieces have been written specifically for him.
As I mentioned, earlier, Liarmakopoulos’s principal job today is performing as a regular member of the renowned Canadian Brass. I am certain that you can gather that this Brass ensemble has won the respect of audiences the world over. In addition to his full time job with the Canadian Brass, beginning in January of 2013 on his days off, he has toured around the entire world with the genre defying group, Pink Martini, including a recent sold out performance at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, UK which received rave reviews.
In a completely unrelated genre, Latin music, (Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican music), recently in August of 2013 Achilles was invited by Salsa Icon Ruben Blades to join him on stage at Lincoln Center Outdoors. Ironically, it was the record “Siembra” of master Latin singer Ruben Blades from Panama that made Liarmakopoulos thoroughly fascinated with Salsa music and the trombone. This was when he was only 10 years old.
In 2011, his debut solo album, Ástor Piazzolla: Tango Distinto, was released by Naxos Records. It is the first full album to appear with Astor Piazzolla’s music played by solo trombone. This record is one of the most virtuosic performances ever recorded on the trombone. Especially track 3 night club (Night Club) which is almost unplayable on the trombone as it was written for a flute virtuoso, and also track 5 “Le Grand Tango” written for the legendary Mstislav Rostropovich.
Once again here, Achilles is known for his use of an extraordinarily wide range of contrasting dynamics and tone colors, from exceedingly soft and almost inaudible, to exceptionally loud when chosen. Many other artists and other genres make very little use of dynamics and varied tone colors, but Achilles is known for using them masterfully.
For those who play the trombone and listen to Liarmakopoulos, they will notice that his embouchure (formation of the lips and opening of the air column) is tireless and flawless. His extraordinarily high notes are markedly controlled and performed without error, or any perceived effort, beyond what is known to be possible on any brass instrument. However, what is much more impressive than his extremely wide range and astonishing technique is the lyrical artistry which he is endowed with. The sweet melodic phrases that he performs so smoothly are able to capture your attention you and caress your heart gently.
Liarmakopoulos’s album “Tango Distinto” has received rave reviews worldwide which was no surprise to all those who have followed this young virtuoso’s career. Aside from the unimaginably impressive trombone playing and excellent production of this entire CD, the timbres and tone colors of the Argentine folkloric instruments like the bandoleon, and nylon string guitar are also very delightful, eclectic, and extremely appealing to listen to.
As we say in Greek, “kai se anotera”, (and on to greater works).
For much more about Achilles Liarmakopoulos go to his web site at: www.achillestrombone.com
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