Musical mateship endures for 30 years

Quattro. Selby and Friends. City Recital Hall. November 2
Reviewed by Peter McCallum
★★★★

Pianist Kathryn Selby's series Selby and Friends was founded almost 30 years ago and has existed in its current form for more than a decade. That's a lot of friends.

But over and above the wealth of musical artistry, it also represents great tenacity. The final concert for 2017 was a chance to reflect on the success of this particular model of sustaining an artistic practice within Australia's friendly, fickle, fragile musical ecosystem.

In this concert the friends were well-known as key Sydney Symphony players, violinist Andrew Haveron, violist Tobias Breider and cellist Umberto Clerici, rebranded as Trio Ex-patria, because, for each, the Antipodes are a long way from home.

Yet what was clear from the outset was the maturity of musical understanding between all four. This wasn't the playing of musicians who pass like ships in the night with minimal engagement beyond shared professionalism.

It was high level ensemble playing by performers with the insight, judgment and skill to establish the close musical affinity needed for fine music making, however busy their schedules.

They played Mozart's Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 468 with poised seriousness and grace, the strings setting the tone with a stern opening motive, the piano responding with a leap like a spirit trying to set itself free.

The next work, Joaquin Turina's Piano Quartet in A minor Opus 67 (1931), was a rarity, chasing fleeting moments of intensity and flashes of colour amid a mood of smouldering expressiveness.

The first movement pursued diverse lines of thought, bound together by a haunting motive with a quiet kick in the step.

The second was lively with a hint of dance and flirtation and the third returned to a slow tempo and mood of wistful reflection.

The second half was given over to Dvorak's genial Piano Quartet No. 2 in E flat, Opus 87, its four-square theme in the first movement setting a tone of reassuring stolidity.

The second movement mixed intimate dialogue between piano and cello, and a serene violin melody with passages of tumultuous activity.

Just before the close of the ebullient finale, the players pulled the momentum back for one of Dvorak's characteristic moments of mellow golden twilight, the place, one expects, he most liked to be.

Press Reviews