From Prodigy to Prodigious

Selby and Friends:

From Prodigy to Prodigious

Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia, 16.10.12

By Jennifer Gall

The artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrote of one of their collaborative installations, ‘If some of our works are symphonies, then Wrapped Walkways was chamber music’. The quotation refers to a series of paths in Jacob Loose Park, Kansas City, Missouri, which in the late 1970s were ‘wrapped’ to give them new visual life and redefine their utilitarian purpose in the environment. In a similar way, Kathryn Selby chooses her musicians and repertoire to create concerts of chamber works that lead the listener down familiar paths to receive new musical insights.  The all female line-up of Selby, Natsuko Yoshimoto and Emma-Jane Murphy creates a unique sound in the Australian music scene, and Selby has done well to keep her vision for the trio alive despite Murphy’s move back to Europe.

Mozart’s Violin Sonata No.26 in B flat major, K378 showcased the joyful marriage of violin and piano in the Allegro Moderato. The Andante created a soporific mood of tranquillity, counterbalanced by the vibrant interpretation of the final Rondo and crisp attack entering the Allegro.

Beethoven’s Trio in G major, Op.1 No 2; one of three Trios in Opus 1, is a work that is important for its place in his early career. First performed at the house of Prince Lichonowsky of Prussia, to whom the music was dedicated, one suspects that the works were carefully crafted to suit the taste of the audience. While the influence of Haydn is often remarked upon, in the Finale: Presto there is also the sense of a Mozartian zephyr tingling in the effervescent writing.

Murphy and Yoshimoto did justice to Johan Halvorsen’s brilliant writing for strings in the Passacaglia in G minor after G.F. Handel’s Keyboard Suite No7. While replete with demanding technical effects, the work is not just an exercise.  Halvorsen understood how to juxtapose resonance with plucked effects and achieve a satisfying ‘narrative’ by skilfully varying tone and tempo. It would have assisted the musicians with their performance of this virtuosic work if patrons returning late after interval had waited respectfully in the top gallery until the Passacaglia had finished before reclaiming their seats.

Bedrich Smetana’s Trio in G Minor, Op.15 provided a grand finale to the concert. The three movements offer different worlds of musical ideas, the first movement programmatic and solidly 19th century; the second movement offering some delicious climaxes for the piano with intimations of Rachmaninov’s gestures; Yoshimoto presented a sweet violin solo in the Andante and the final Presto-Moderato Assai combined references to earthy Czech folk tunes in the strident chording of the string parts with an elaborate piano line.

Patrons can look forward to further musical explorations in the 8th Season of Selby and Friends in 2013.

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