Tour 2, 2013 - Canberra

First Last and Only’, Selby and Friends at the Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia, Monday April 8. 2013

By Jennifer Gall (Canberra Times)

It is perhaps an obvious characteristic of chamber music concerts, but I always enjoy the totally new interpretations of works achieved by each different combination of musicians, with their different training, the varied experiences they have had playing in Australia and abroad, and of course, in the way their instruments sound alone and blending with others in the ensemble. In Monday night’s concert, Kathryn Selby joined forces with Susie Park, violin and Timo-Veikko Valve, cello to present a very different night of music to the first concert of the season.

Valve’s choice of opening work was the Piano Trio in C Minor, Op 8. (1923), a work remembered for the way in which Shostakovich and his friends mastered the piece while playing it to accompany silent films. Originally titled Poème, the Trio also records the composer’s love for Tatyana Glivenko. Conflicting stylistic elements: Romantic, impressionistic and grotesque, somehow co-exist successfully in the Trio, and the exceptional beauty of the cello tone on this occasion combined with direct, unsentimental violin and piano performances to ensure the consistency of interpretation.

The first movement of Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor (1914) opened with Selby’s skilful left hand accompaniment establishing the subtle rhythmic patterning – strong, yet flexible – that underpinned the entire performance. Luscious, expansive string passages, contrasting textural effects and tight insistent trills formed a richly sensual sound-world. Communication between Park and Valve created an intense dialogue keeping the string parts energised and well balanced with the dynamics of the piano line.

After interval, Schubert’s Piano trio in E Flat Major, op.100, D 929 (1827) provided a striking rhythmic and stylistic contrast to the music of the first half of the concert. Park and Valve’s playing combined strong gestural bowing with breathtaking dynamic control and powerful spring. In the Andante con moto, Valve’s cello sang the solo in its most distinctive voice –all tone and no hint of coarse hairiness – so pure a sound that it was hard to believe the bow was drawing the notes by touching the strings. Park’s violin provided the embroidery, whether doubling the cello line or interweaving its own conversational line – the piano always complementing and supporting the strings while adding its own carefully crafted statements.

Emerging into a curiously heavy autumn evening atmosphere it was comforting to think that as the nights draw in there will be future Selby and Friends concerts to look forward to.

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