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SMH: Czech Connection -Thrilling show

Sydney Morning Herald
By Harriet Cunningham

City Recital Hall, June 2, 2015

The ingredients were indisputably fine: Andrew Haveron, concertmaster of the Sydney Symphony; Timo-Veikko "Tipi" Valve,  principal cello of the Australian Chamber Orchestra; and, in my opinion, one of Australia's most virtuosic and vital pianists, Kathryn Selby. So why did it take a while for this ensemble to gel? Such is the mystery of chamber music.

The all-star trio began with Schubert's exquisite little poem, Notturno in E flat major, Op. 148, D. 897. Exquisite, but unforgiving, especially in the transparent lines of the opening melody. Haveron and  Valve sustained the long pianissimo with steely focus, but the necessary delicacy of the melody was overshadowed by the piano accompaniment. The more robust mood of Mendelssohn's Trio in D minor, Op. 49 suited the ensemble well, but it was not until Haveron and  Valve returned to the stage for Martinu's Duo No. 1 for Violin and Cello that the full extent of their mastery came across.

Martinu's Duos rarely turn up on concert programs not least because, as Haveron noted in his spoken introduction, they are technically very difficult. It says much about these performers, therefore, that while this short work was impressive as a display of virtuosity – bravo to  Valve, in particular, for an extraordinary cadenza – it made an even bigger impact as a tough but gripping insight into a neglected composer. It left me wanting to hear more.

After interval, the ensemble came together again for a thoroughly cohesive performance of Dvorak's expansive Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 65. Balance issues were fixed: it was an equilateral triangle, with three strong, individual voices in a dense, passionately argued account. The pianissimo before the first movement coda was a revelatory moment, as was their deft and delicious juggling of threes and twos in the scherzo. That, and Selby's provocative tempi as she shoe-horned great waves of arpeggios into the tight confines of a brisk rondo with casual brilliance. It would be difficult to find a more thrilling live performance of this work, proving that three and two do, eventually, go into one.

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