Basically Beethoven - James Fairfax Theatre

Selby and Friends: Basically Beethoven, James Fairfax Theatre, 7.30pm, Monday, November 23.

Sometimes in a concert, the repertoire will have been perfectly pleasant but, with the next item, the performers suddenly ignite in fellowship and they are really making music to lift us out of everyday reality and into a heightened state. So it was with Timo-Veikko Valve's interpretation of Beethoven's Sonata for Cello and Piano No.3 in A major, Op. 69, the third work on the program for Selby and Friends' final concert of the 2015 series. Both voices of cello and piano were equally matched, not competing – the sonorities of each instrument blending and supporting each other. The stepping figure in the left hand of the piano part in the Allegro ma non troppo opening movement was one of the many treats as the sonata unfolded; the dramatic contrasts of dynamic and speed variations, crisp syncopation, delicate twirling descending trills from the cello and complementary river-rapid runs from the piano all added to the delight of this performance.

After the charming opening Allegretto in E flat major, Dale Barltrop​ introduced the Sonata for violin and piano No.10 in G major, Op. 96 as his favourite of the Beethoven violin sonatas, and his version had a youthful freshness and an almost pastoral feeling. The work begins with the suggestion of bird song in the violin line developing into a rhapsodic soaring melody, becoming more introspective in the Adagio Espressivo, gradually gathering momentum and spring through the final two movements. I suspect that the Yamaha in this auditorium has a harsher tone than it ought to – perhaps because of mechanical reasons or perhaps the acoustic properties of the space. It would certainly benefit from some experimentation to see if it can be made less assertive so the sweet melody in line in works such as this sonata may not struggle against it.

Dale Barltrop introduced the Sonata for violin and piano No.10 in G major, Op. 96 as his favourite of the Beethoven violin sonatas at Selby and Friend's final concert of 2015. 

To conclude, the ensemble embarked on a gracious rendering of the Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 – known as "Archduke". The ensemble conveyed the idea of a dramatic dialogue perfectly – the lovely opening, with the violin and cello entering the conversation as the piano finished its statement, blending the instrumental voices and building the majesty of the trio with the powerful chemistry of three musicians entirely focused on each other and the music. Selby's fingers flew over the keyboard with perfect placement and she remained in command of the ebb and surge of energy as the trio built the tension in the music to its triumphant conclusion.

What a fine concert to conclude another splendid year of Kathryn Selby's contributions to the musical life of the nation.

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