A moving journey through Beethoven's works

Sydney Morning Herald
May 14, 2014
by Harriet Cunningham

City Recital Hall Angel Place, Tuesday May 13

In a clear acknowledgement of the sophistication and commitment of her audience, Kathryn Selby presented just one composer for her second tour of 2014: Ludwig van Beethoven. One composer, but many voices, as the four works on the program, each from different stages of his life, revealed.

The Piano Trio in E flat major, WoO 38, is a curiously uncomfortable work: its textbook classicism and filigree pianism feel more ingratiating than gracious. Selby dealt with the piano score with neat flair, while violinist Susie Park and cellist Timo-Veikko Valve provided a polite accompaniment.
It all felt a bit muted, and that was perhaps the point. In the following work, Beethoven’s 'Spring' Sonata for piano and violin, Park’s opening statement of the melody was like a sudden switch from black and white to colour. Park is very much the soloist, and her tone seems to blossom most when she is centre stage, singing the tune. Brisk tempi also lifted this work out of mere loveliness into an exhilarating scamper, powered by Park and Selby’s unerring fingers.

By 1815, when Beethoven wrote his Sonata for Cello and Piano in D major, Op. 102 No. 2, murkier times called for more complex sounds. Like the composer, Valve here discarded any superficial efforts to please, charging into the flamboyance of the opening Allegro con brio with splashy bravura. The slow movement, too, was characterised by a lack of wall-to-wall gloss, fearlessly leaning on some phrases with raw pain, while others were polished to breath-catching beauty. It was an impressive and moving demonstration of the range and power of Beethoven’s mature voice.
Finally, the three musicians reunited for Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E flat major, Op. 70 No. 2, written in 1808. The range and complexity of the score was a good match for these three very individual artists, who took Beethoven’s unpredictable lurches out of the classical comfort zone in their stride.

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