A hearty feast for all friends and admirers

Sydney Morning Herald
May 11, 2012
by Harriet Cunningham

City Recital Hall, Tuesday, May 8

SUBTITLED ''Friends and Admirers'', Kathryn Selby's second concert for the year was an unapologetic indulgence in the lush proto-romanticism of Chopin and Mendelssohn. The trio - Selby on piano with guest artists Sophie Rowell on violin and cellist Julian Smiles - opened with a movement by Niels Gade, a Danish contemporary of Chopin. It is glorious stuff, full of noble, heart-on-sleeve tunes and well-crafted textures, and the trio gave it a suitably rich and refined performance.

Gade's long, yearning cello lines were a good warm-up for Chopin's Sonata for cello and piano (Op. 65, CT. 204). This rangy, surprising work, whose opening melody has uncanny pre-echoes of Elgar's cello concerto, was a highlight of the concert. Smiles and Selby are seasoned concert partners, and they displayed great musical empathy. Smiles was an impassioned but sublte protagonist, with Selby accompanying the sustained cello phrases with the lightest of touches. Her role went far beyond accompanist in ensuing movements, leading the charge in tumultuous finale.

As Rowell explained in an articulate introduction, Stravinsky's Suite Italienne was something of an aural palate cleanser to punctuate the excesses of mid-19th-century emoting. Her performance was, however, far from dry, finding a stately eloquence in Stravinsky's fond and fascinating tribute to Pergolesi. The mercurial changes in mood sometimes eluded Rowell, but her ornamentation in the introduction and the Gavotte came through like beautifully carved architectural details on an understated classical edifice.

It was back into the romantic maelstrom with Mendelssohn's Trio in D minor, Op. 49, but one in which everyone, at least initially, held their emotions in check. Selby laid out the andante's opening melody without fuss. Similarly, the opening to the finale was measured and yet almost bursting with potential. When the music finally exploded into an impassioned flood of notes the performers always maintained a clarity and close ensemble which cut through to the dense passages, bringing this feast to a well-balanced close.

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