From Russia with Love

From Russia With Love by Selby and Friends at Llewellyn Hall was a memorable concert.

From Russia With Love - Tour 3. Selby and Friends: Daniel Dodds, violin; Timo-Veikko Valve, cello; Kathryn Selby, piano, Llewellyn Hall, Monday, July 8, 7.30pm.

Selby and Friends have made Llewellyn Hall their own after moving from their long-term venue, the Fairfax Theatre. Opening with three shorter works, the program gradually built in intensity, reaching the dramatic summit of the evening with a magnificent performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Trio, No.2 in D minor, Op.9 "Elégaique" (1893).

In the surprisingly short Romance by Scriabin (arranged for cello and piano by Steven Isserlis), the musicians painted a picture of transitory beauty, creating the mood for the concert. Beethoven's Seven Variations on Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen from Mozart's Die Zauberflote for cello and piano began with some slippery notes in the upper register on the cello, but the music steadied and as each variation unfolded, piano and cello established an engaging duet, simulating the parts of the original voices. Variation six offered a truly luscious adagio in readiness for the sometimes playful, sometimes moody Variation seven in which Selby and Valve combined voices to reach the sparkling conclusion.

As the title suggests, Tchaikovsky's Méditation from Souvenir d'un lieu cher(1878) is a reverie on an evocative time and place, with perhaps a romantic association, as the manuscript bears a dedication to "B******".

Dodd's interpretation gave the violin a rich, warbling voice, executing the trills and ornamentation of the long melodic ascents and descents like birdsong. While the work is predominantly introspective, there are moments of dazzling virtuosic opportunity in the score which Dodd seized to imbue the concluding bars with invigorating energy.

Debussy's Piano Trio in G major was a delightful contrast to the melancholy preceding works. Opening with a dreamlike Andante con moto allegro, the following Scherzo -Intermezzo with its lively pizzicato and contrasting charming, romantic theme played legato by cello and violin transported the audience to an oasis of contentment. The three instruments were well balanced, interweaving thematic ideas and blending textures to recreate Debussy's imagined world.

To complete the concert, Rachmaninov's Piano Trio No.2 in D minor was a transcendent performance. A tender cello solo opened the work, the textures developing into an aquatic soundscape of liquid piano on which floated the string parts, until all instrument voices created a tumultuous storm. 

Opening with a hymn-like theme in the second movement, the music reminded us that the work was composed in memory of Tchaikovsky after his sudden, shocking death. The anger and defiance of grief was expressed through the turbulent voice of Selby's piano in the third and final movement: Allegro risoluto.

A tender cello solo opened the work, the textures developing into an aquatic soundscape of liquid piano on which floated the string parts, until all instrument voices created a tumultuous storm.

 Pianist Kathryn Selby was impressive, especially in Rachmaninov. This was certainly a performance to remember.

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