By Arrangement, Canberra Times

Review: Selby and Friends

Jennifer Gall, Canberra Times

By Arrangement - Orchestral Masterworks for Piano Trio; Selby and Friends, Fairfax Theatre, Monday, May 22, 2017.

Kathryn Selby, Andrew Haveron and Timo-Veikko Valve joined forces to recreate three very different musical arrangements of orchestral masterworks by Haydn, Ravel and Beethoven. In the case of Salomon's arrangement of Haydn's Symphony No.96 in D major and Carl Reinecke's transcription of Beethoven's Triple Concerto, op. 56, these were reduced versions of the compositions that travelled to the four corners of the earth to be performed in drawing rooms and small venues, enabling far-flung audiences to hear their beauty far from the concert halls of Europe.

Haydn's "Miracle" Symphony is a light and spacious work providing ample scope for each instrument to sparkle with perfectly observed timing; crisply delineated dynamics and fast and furious fingering. The cello and violin opened the Adagio-Allegro with polished unison playing, leading into the capricious Andante, in which the delicate pastoral met an escalating, dramatic fugato. There was a touch of the revolving music box ballerina in the sound of the Menuetto, but she broke free with the Allegretto to dance a more sophisticated Landler. Piano, cello and violin pitched headlong into the Finale: Vivace, flying up and down runs and racing to the joyous conclusion.

Immediately the first notes of Le Tombeau de Couperin, Op.18 were sounded the auditorium melted away into a summer afternoon in the pre-World War 1 French countryside. No-one captures the play of light in music as Ravel does. He recreates the myriad tiny movements of leaves and breezes and birds and sun dancing on wind-tossed trees that falls through branches and dapples the grass beneath, and the trio were true to the composer in their rendition. This 2006 arrangement by Matt van Brink maintains the essential magic of the original composition, magnifying the intensity of the writing with the trio instrumentation. The flood of sound in the opening Prelude opens the heart, allowing the music to move through mind and imagination, awakening a strong sense of the happy memories of a generation before they were lost to war. For the duration of the work they are alive again in the golden hey-day of youth, the violin and cello conversing across the landscape evoked by the piano – creating a powerful and lovely war memorial.

Reinecke's arrangement of Beethoven's Triple Concerto in C major sounded rather like an attempt to contain a hurricane in a terrarium – the original is almost too grand a work to submit to losing its orchestration, but the valiant performance created a different, deeply intense interpretation. The growling entry of the cello and piano heralded the breaking of the storm. Soaring cello in the Largo created a welcome contrast to the vigorous passion in the first and third movements and the final Rondo alla Polacca lit the fire in the fingering of Haveron's violin line.

Most importantly, the trio's shared pleasure and discovery of new alignments in performing was communicated to the audience. By Arrangement was a fine start to the week.

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