My Song - ArtsHub

September 07, 2012
by Tomas Boot

City Recital Hall Angel Place, Tuesday, September 4


The launch of the 2013 season of Opera Australia was a grand affair, with balloons descending en masse from the ceiling onto an unsuspecting audience (unless, of course, they’d bothered to look up and see the inflated rubber above them), pyrotechnics abounding, and a five-dancer rendition of the can-can demonstrating agility, flexibility, and quite a lot of bloomers.

The launch of the 2013 season for Selby & Friends, on the other hand, involved picking up a brochure in the foyer.

There also was a quick mention of said brochures in the foyer by Kathryn Selby herself, darting out on stage five minutes or so before the concert started to let us know that the season had been launched, and that the concert was being recorded, plus giving us a slight introduction to the pieces to come that evening. (Season launches can often summon up some tedious speeches in their launchees, so this efficiency was most welcome.) Up towards the top right of the platform at the City Recital Hall, one could see the lit window where the ABC overlords were situated, dictating terms for the concert to follow (‘They prefer it if we don’t talk between pieces,’ Selby said). As for the 2013 season itself - it certainly looks to be a crowd pleaser, and can be viewed here.

It was quartets, quartets, quartets this evening, with Selby being joined by Elizabeth Layton on the violin, Glen Donnelly on the viola, and Julian Smiles with his cello. The first piece was Mahler’s Quartet movement in A minor for piano, violin, viola and cello – Nicht zu schnell, which was a delightful opener to the concert. Or rather, it was much less delightful and much more angst-ridden than one might have expected. What the quartet managed to do in their performance was to balance the two sides of the piece: the more delicate moments contrasted expertly with those more vigorous, building-towards-climax affairs. Written when the composer was only 16 years old, this performance showed it to be an accomplished piece.

Next came Paul Stanhope’s My Song is Love Unknown for piano quartet (2000) (Revised 2009). This, too, was just as balanced as the Mahler, the quartet managing to sustain the interest where other ensembles may have disintegrated in the quieter moments. Stanhope tells us in the program that, ‘musically, this piano quartet is quite like a Chorale Prelude in that it uses a well known sacred melody and then weaves new material around it’, the title taken from a hymn tune by John Ireland. While not quite as emotionally deep as the Mahler before it, it was by no means frothy, and was quite enjoyable.

A somewhat bland Mozart followed after this, his Piano Quartet in E flat, K493. The second movement was the best of the three, but the ensemble didn’t quite squeeze all the juices out that one was hoping for. After the interval came Dvorak’s Quartet in E flat major for piano, violin, viola and cello, Op.87, which more than made up for any of the deficiencies in the Mozart. The first movement perhaps suffering slightly in comparison to the other three – a tad too expansive for this critic’s taste – the performance was nevertheless highly satisfying. All in all, a thoroughly entertaining night, and hopefully a good omen of what is to come in 2013 (and, indeed, in the final concert this year).

To view the full review please visit the ArtsHub.

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