Let's Get Personal

Canberra Critics Circle

Reviewed by  Jennifer Gall

ONE of the strange ironies of the current Covid situation is that a Chamber Music concert presented online can be an extraordinarily intimate experience for a very small number of people, perhaps more closely reflecting the composer’s original intent – except for that one all important fact – the music in our homes is mediated by a machine and the internet.

Kathy Selby has seized the challenge of presenting her 2020 series in a world without concert halls and created an impressive musical experience for her subscribers. The concert, Let’s Get Personal, was recorded at Sydney Grammar School with a very quick turnaround time. It is a skilful production because it combines the familiarity of Kathy’s spoken introduction with an uninterrupted concert performance, supported by a delightful, informative conversation between the three performers: Kathy Selby, piano, Andrew Haveron, violin and Umberto Clerici, cello. As listeners, we had the best of all worlds by hearing beautiful performances, then the immediacy of hearing an animated and spontaneous interrogation of the program by the musicians themselves. The filming was unobtrusive and panned smoothly between single musicians and the ensemble, just as the eye would move in a more traditional concert.

With the joyous opening Mozart Piano Trio No 3 in B flat major, K502, there was an immediate lifting of the spirits. Composed in 1786, an important and eventful year for Mozart in his career trajectory, the Trio balances youthful exuberance with the confidence of a composer who consummately provides each instrument with an assertive voice in the musical conversation. The three movements, AllegroLarghettoAllegretto are neatly contrasted to offer ample time for anticipation, contemplation and resolution. In this performance there was unmistakable warmth in the combined sound of three friends conversing. In the Larghetto, the instruments interwove three distinctive sinuous and lovely melodic threads, the tempo perfectly calculated to offer a slow - but not too slow – unfolding of the thematic ideas. The final, delicate Allegretto was a perfect conclusion of this sparkling work.

In listening to Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E flat major, Op.1 No. I was mindful of Umberto Clerici’s observation that Beethoven wrote to challenge the established forms of his era, always composing music for the audiences of the future, anticipating an era wherein dramatic changes of thematic and dynamic direction would be the spice that listeners were expecting in a concert. Beethoven’s Op.1 fitted very well with the earlier work by Mozart, and one could imagine that both composers would have enjoyed hearing their music played in this sequence. I enjoyed the sparring of violin and cello – the particular tone of these two venerable instruments speaking to each other was proof that the musicians were emotionally and technically invested in producing such fine music.

Dvořák’s PianoTrio No 4 in E minor, Op. 90, the ‘Dumky’, is a familiar work to many Chamber Music lovers. Andrew Haveron explained it as the composition into which Dvořák poured his complete devotion to the language, traditional music and cultural history of the Czech people. The form incorporates 6 ‘dances’ with variations, leading the audience through a kaleidoscope of passionate musical sound, creating rich pictures for the imagination as a heart-piercing violin melodiy is next enfolded in a tender, soaring cello melody, with the piano providing the underlying pulsing heartbeat.

We are indeed lucky at this time to hear the performance presented by Kathy Selby. She has grasped the technology possibilities available and created a lifeline to connect audiences with chamber music until we are able to meet again in more traditional concert venues.

Concert Reviews