SMH Big Sky review Tour 2

Selby and Friends review: Kathryn Selby sets herself a marathon, delivers fierce and stirring night

Date
April 17, 2015 - 2:35PM

Peter McCallum

 

City Recital Hall, April 16  ★★★★

Joan Tower's Big Sky (2000) for piano trio traces a subtle arch-like structure not unlike the sky itself. Its trajectory from quietness to turbulence brought to mind that guilt-ridden dark sonnet by Shakespeare about a glorious morning allowing a base cloud to cover its celestial face so the sunset is secretive and disgraceful. The piece begins subdued, and scarcely breathing, the violin part rising, with increasing intensity, to tossed, tempestuous and hammered force in the middle before returning to the opening ideas for the close. Unlike Shakespeare, Tower's sunset was a return to serenity rather than a furtive death. Her music was heard last year in a Musica Viva program and certainly deserves wider dissemination.

Joan Tower's Big Sky (2000) for piano trio traces a subtle arch-like structure not unlike the sky itself. Its trajectory from quietness to turbulence brought to mind that guilt-ridden dark sonnet by Shakespeare about a glorious morning allowing a base cloud to cover its celestial face so the sunset is secretive and disgraceful. The piece begins subdued, and scarcely breathing, the violin part rising, with increasing intensity, to tossed, tempestuous and hammered force in the middle before returning to the opening ideas for the close. Unlike Shakespeare, Tower's sunset was a return to serenity rather than a furtive death. Her music was heard last year in a Musica Viva program and certainly deserves wider dissemination.

Selby and her friends then regrouped for one-on-one consultations, continuing with Beethoven's first Cello Sonata in F major, Opus 5 No.1. As so often in his F major works, Beethoven toys here with the topic of wit and brilliance in a respectful nod to his teacher Haydn. Cellist Umberto Clerici breathed life and imaginative substance into ideas, playing with rich sound and focused intelligence, against pianism of sparkling brilliance from Selby.

In Cesar Franck's Violin Sonata in A major, New Zealand-based Finish violinist Vesa-Matti Leppanen​ played the quiet, suggestive first movement with a sound of simple clarity and golden beauty, maintaining transparency and well-defined melodic shape even in the turbulent moments of the 2nd and 4th movements. Selby, who had set herself something of a marathon in this program with four major piano parts, was a powerful and well-contrasted partner. The performance emphasised purity of melodic line over expressive distortion, doing just honour to a noble work.

The three came together after interval for Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E minor, Opus 67 (1944) in a powerful performance of starkness, brutality, strong contrast and searing irony. At times greater tension could have been achieved by stricter discipline on unvarying tempo and tone. However, overall this concert was everything changing music ought to be: intimate and bold, stirring and soothing, fiercely individual and collectively cohesive.

 

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