Tour 3 "Sumptuous Show" - Canberra Times

Sumptuous show

July 3, 2013

Jennifer Gall

Review: Confessions Of A Romantic Selby, Friends Tour 3 Monday, July 1, 2013 Fairfax Theatre.

Above the National Gallery of Australia, the frosty night air polished the stars to their finest winter sparkle - a fitting backdrop for Grieg's Andante con moto in C minor for Piano Trio, performed by Vesa-Matti Leppanen on violin, Timo-Veikko Valve on cello and Kathy Selby on piano. The three musicians have clearly enjoyed their rehearsal time together and have developed a warm rapport, reflected in the clear communication and precise balance of their performance on Monday night. The opening chords of Grieg's Trio, played in impeccable unison by the strings, set the tone for the evening.


Valve is well known to audiences from his appearances with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Fellow Finn, Leppanen, is concertmaster of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.


Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66 opened with a provocative, sinuous melody, supported by the urgent piano accompaniment, building anticipation and leading into the calmer second subject before the return of the earlier devilish motif. This is the strongest movement in a slightly peculiar work. There is a sense that Mendelssohn swept the floor after ripping up a month's worth of compositions and reassembled the fragments into a new piece - the whole is credible in terms of construction and key structure, but there is something oddly fragmentary and borrowed about it. This is accentuated in the final allegro appassionato, when the old 100th ducks in and out of the luscious string passages and piano line, which is alternately melancholy and triumphant.



Brahms, the great designer, did not disappoint in this performance of the Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8 - the grounded piano pedal point in the opening phrases warding off sentimentality from the sweet melody as it passed between the instruments. It is such clever, nuanced writing, with a more tightly organised architecture of ideas than Mendelssohn's Opus 66. Leppanen's violin soared in the scherzo and trio; the ensemble executing a splendid finale with perfectly timed chords. The Adagio Non Troppo was truly lovely, from the perfectly emphasised lean on the sustained cello note at the end of the opening phrase, throughout the lush harmonies kept free of schmaltz. The piano line remained fresh and crisp, the pedal used sparingly. Stepping sequences built drama in the finale, Allegro Molto Agitato, and here the writing is suggestive, in passages, of turgid film music of a much later date.

Selby and Friends' Confessions of a Romantic is a concert that offers the audience a heady marriage of passion, precision and nostalgia.

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