Selby & Friends - 'Trout' en fin!

Classic Melbourne
by Peter Williams

Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Wednesday November 12

At Deakin Edge to review Selby & Friends, our reviewer was in for a night of pleasure and anguish. The performances delivered the “pleasure” part of the equation as all the “friends” have solid pedigrees as soloists, ensemble and orchestral players.

Kathryn Selby explained each of the works in this fine concert were written at a watershed moment for each composer:  Mozart’s Piano No 1 Divertimento K254; Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C minor Op 60, “Werther” and Schubert’s Quintet for piano and strings “The Trout”.  The “anguish” of the program was found in the Brahms pieces which were lovingly and beautifully performed.

Mozart’s Piano Trio was a watershed in the importance of “accompanying” instruments; so there was delightful clear dialogue between the dexterity of Selby’s piano playing and the fine violin work of Elizabeth Layton, especially in the soulful melody of the second movement. Even given this change in form, cellist Julian Smiles wryly informed us later that he had two solo notes; however, his jaunty pizzicato of the third moment gave it a lovely rhythmic humour.  The tempi were well established, and the lyricism and the contrast of the more dramatic moments were well judged.  Mozart is known to have performed the piece as both pianist and violinist; it is certainly a piece that was bringing trio form out of the domestic setting and into the concert hall.

Tobias Breider joined the trio for the Brahms C minor quartet.  Sometimes known as “Werther”, this is reference to a story of a man, in love with an older woman, who commits suicide.  The work’s watershed moment was Brahms forming a relationship with Clara Schumann. It was played with a wonderful intensity which captured the wistful, the bitter-sweet , the serene and the descent into despair.  Breider’s viola brought added depth to these emotions, sounding especially fine in the first movement.  Selby shone in the energetic, almost frantic, descending and ascending modulating chords of the second movement.  The cello had a rich and sensual rhythmic progression in the third, which was well picked up as duet for violin and viola.  The final movement was staggering – even the quieter moments were notable for repeated staccato notes for the upper strings, or ominous rumblings of the cello.  The declamatory hit out at fate of the final fortissimo chords were followed by well deserved enthusiastic applause.  It was the highlight of the evening.

The “Trout” Quintet was a needed countermeasure to the Brahms; and there was the delightful surprise inclusion of Taryn Fiebig from Opera Australia, who gave an impromptu performance of Schubert’s popular song.  It brought audience participation to a new level!  Hugh Kluger, double bass, joined the quartet giving an added depth to the piece.  Positioning him slightly more towards the audience might have given his role a better prominence.  It was in this piece that the acoustic of the hall did not do the clear fine lines of the piece any favour.  The beautiful lyric singing lines and variations picked up by each instrument were slightly clouded.  But the performance did pick up the intent of “music bathed in sunshine and the spirit of youth” and this was the watershed moment of Schubert’s country experience as opposed to stifling city life.

This was a marvellous program which was very well received by the packed audience, which also appreciated the encore of the Quintet’s Scherzo.

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