As a reaction to the closing down of arts venues by the coronavirus, pianist Kathryn Selby took one of her ‘Selby and Friends’ concerts to the screen. With violinist Andrew Haveron and cellist Umberto de Clerici, she presented three of the most loved Piano Trios in a concert recorded after only two day’s rehearsal at Sydney Grammar School.
Despite the difficulties of complying with social distancing, very clever camera work follows the music sensitively, close up shots of the musicians revealing their expressive joy in the music and the sustained energy that the pieces demand.
“Reaching out through music has always given comfort and solace - and elevated the soul”, Selby said of her decision to record the concert. “Being able to bring Selby & Friends concerts to music lovers in the safety of their homes was a satisfying goal, worth striving for… and well worth the challenge of overcoming technical hurdles. I am grateful to our loyal subscribers and my colleagues and friends in the industry for helping make this new initiative come to life!”
This reviewer is not a musician – and though I could rely on research to augment my review, I decided to write about what I heard in the music and saw revealed by musicians more closely than on a concert stage. Hence, expect language that describes feelings rather than expertise! Thought stream reactions if you like, possibly stemming from being at home alone watching and listening, rather than being constrained by the proximity of a larger, closer audience.
Mozart’s Piano Trio No 3B flat major exhibits the quirky complications one expects of his work: contrasting tempos, changing inflections, challenging changes in mood. Slower and more romantic moments show the contrasts in the instruments, especially the deeper voice of the cello as it converses with the lighter voices of the violin and the piano.
The third movement is faster, seemingly more intricate than those before it, a delicate motif that somehow allows itself to become more substantive and suggestive, sometimes even a little strident.
Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E flat minor allows the instruments to blend yet exposes their different tones. At times the piano is soft and persuasive, at others emphatic. Lightness in the movements becomes more vibrant. The instruments echo each other, one leading the others into variations of the motifs that are underscored by the deeper voice of the cello.
In this piece particularly, the camera picked up the oneness of the musicians – with each other, and with the music. Close ups of the piano showed Selby’s delicate finger work, intricately delicate at one moment, restrained reaction and more atmospheric at others.
Dvorak’s Piano Trio No 4 in E minor’s shorter but poignant six movements show the different ‘faces’ of the composer and his close understanding and feeling for the instruments. In the first movement, a strong introduction by the cello invites a response from the violin. Together they invite the piano to join them in incredibly strong changes in tempo and mood. Later, in the third movement, the piano draws the strings into a range of emotive moments, gentle at times, more fluidly energetic at others.
At times in the fourth movement there are moments of almost complete silence and stillness, and in the fifth the instruments seem to whisper secrets that are picked up, embellished and retold. The final movement blends the tones of the previous movements but here the violin seems to declare the mood and changes in pace that are picked up willingly until the instruments merge in a final, uplifting series of notes.
If the language is a little flowery – and emotive – I don’t apologise! It reflects a reaction to the music – and to the inspiring work of the camera operators who helped bring Selby and Friends to us so uniquely in the artistic void that has been forced upon us.