Czech Connection in Adelaide

 

BWW Reviews: SELBY AND FRIENDS - THE CZECH CONNECTION Was An Exciting Evening Of Music

 

Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Sunday 7th June 2015

Reviewing a Selby and Friends concert is basically as simple as saying "Kathy Selby arrived in Adelaide with X and Y, and sometimes Z as well, after practising the scheduled works in a series of concerts across the eastern states, and they left the audience breathless with delight."

Every concert, however, has new aspects, new joys, and new stories, and so did Selby and Friends - The Czech Connection. This time, for a start, the stories weren't told. It's the custom in these concerts for each soloist to say a few words about the work that they are playing, biographical details of the composer, their own experience of the work, an addition to the informative program notes. This time, Kathryn Selby began by explaining that, as the plane that was scheduled to take them home had been cancelled, they would have to catch an earlier flight. There would be no stories, a shorter interval, and "Oh yes. We'll play faster".

Trust me. There was no point at all where the pace of any single bar was rushed or compressed. Each piece unfolded with the customary due regard for the value of the music.

Edwin, my concert and sparring partner, mentioned that this weekend the Classic FM Swoon 100 was being performed. If the Notturno in E flat major opus 148, D 897 isn't in the top twenty pieces, I'll be amazed.

It may have been envisaged by the composer as the slow movement of one of his only two piano trios but was left to survive alone, and was not even performed until 20 years after the composer's early death at the age of 31. With the exception of the first twenty bars or so, when the piano was more dominant than it might have been, before finding the perfect balance with the two strings, it proceeded with a calm and eloquent melody moving between the three players.

That balance continued through the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49.

The 'cello of Timmo-Veikko Valve gets to play a leading role in the first movement. stating the major themes with a grace and warmth, and beautiful phrasing. Andrew Haveron's violin matched him in dynamics at every point and in one beautiful moment, may be only two bars long, the violin sang over a pizzicato passage from the 'cello that, even in seat 19 row V, caressed the ear.

The third work in the first half was a real rarity, by the prolific Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, Duo No. 1 (Preludium - Rondo) for Violin and Cello, H. 157, a duo for violin and 'cello, originally composed for two of Martinu's friends. It's a work that cuts the players free from the structural support offered by a piano in a chamber music concert. The first movement plays with tonalities and polyphony. It weaves itself about in a way where form and motive flow freely, perhaps a, little too freely for lovers of more traditional structures. The second movement is characterised by an extensive cadenza for the 'cello which then becomes a double cadenza as the violin joins in. I'd happily hear it again. My concert partner would not.

The concert was billed as the Czech Connection, but it was the work performed after the interval that established that beyond measure, a Dvor?ák trio, it has to be the Dumky, a favourite work, but the program note implied that it was something else, indeed. It was not the E minor but the Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 65, and what a great piece it is. Once past a little audience confusion, everything turned out spectacularly well.

It was here, even more than in the first half, that Kathryn Selby's grasp of pace, tone, and dynamics directed the work. With the sort of care and executive skill that has characterised her work since the days of the Macquarie Trio, she shaped the performance to a rousing climax.

She had announced at the start of the program that the Martinu trio, scheduled to be played second would be played third just before the shortened interval. I suspect that while Valve and Haveron were alone on stage, she was downstairs on the phone telling the airline that had cancelled their later flight exactly when she and her fellow musicians would arrive at the airport, and that they weren't going to rush a single bar.

 

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