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Review - Beethoven's Ghost

Pianist Kathy Selby’s second virtual concert is topflight treat for Beethoven fans

Sydney pianist and entrepreneur Kathryn Selby is offering a Beethoven anniversary present for the second of her Selby and Friends virtual concerts.

Steve Moffatt, Wentworth Courier

July 4, 2020 4:59pm

Sydney pianist and entrepreneur Kathryn Selby is offering a Beethoven anniversary present for the second of her Selby and Friends virtual concerts.

Three piano trio works from different critical periods of the composer’s life were recorded in a straight-through live performance from the stage of an empty City Recital Hall Angel Place – the Op 1 No. 3, Beethoven’s own transcription of his Symphony No 2 and the D major Op 70 No. 1 Ghost trio.

Joining Selby are young Australian violinist Harry Ward, making his Selby and Friends debut, and regular collaborator, Australian Chamber Orchestra principal cellist Timo-Veikko “Tipi” Valve cello

The Op 1 work was composed when Beethoven was coming of coming of age, while the second symphony was written when he was going deaf and contemplated suicide and the Ghost dates from a period when he considered leaving Vienna because he felt he wasn’t welcome any more – fortunately some nobles came to his financial aid.

MULLET

As always the performers introduce each piece, with Ward saying that Beethoven was his age, 24, when Haydn advised him to withhold his Op 1 trios, feeling that the Vienna audience might not be ready for works which pushed the Classical envelope. Beethoven ignored the advice.

Ward, who sports a trendy curly mullet, is currently training in Melbourne with Dr Robin Wilson at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) and was recently named a Musica Viva future music maker. He has a smooth bowing technique and a secure and sweet tone, playing with assuredness and an authority not often seen in one so young.

Coincidentally Ward and Valve performed the second symphony in its full orchestral form on the same stage a few months before this virtual concert was recorded.

The three musicians show a strong chemistry, turning in a reading full of nuance and insight.

Beethoven probably made this trio version to sell more sheet music and enable home performances. The lovely larghetto movement in particular lends itself to this scaling down and Selby, as the one-woman “orchestra”, led this performance with delicacy and astute judgment.

The Ghost trio was composed at a time when Beethoven was considering writing a second opera and basing it on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This was a top flight performance, despite the occasional minor lapse in intonation in the final movement. The three musicians show a strong chemistry, turning in a reading full of nuance and insight. 

One advantage of watching a virtual performance like this is that the camera picks up the expressions on the musicians’ faces, as well as details like the sweaty fingerprints on Valve’s cello fingerboard and some tape on the shoulder of Ward’s 1780 Pietro Antonio Landolfi violin to protect the varnish.

Selby said the atmosphere on stage was “electric” and the audience at home will pick up on this. The concert is available for a week and is a fine anniversary present for all Beethoven lovers. To subscribe or find out more go to selbyandfriends.com.au.

DETAILS

● CONCERT Selby and Friends: Beethoven’s Ghost

● WHERE Virtual Live Online

● WHEN Available Now

 

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