Pianist Kathryn Selby.

Music / “Back From The Brink”, Selby & Friends, Llewellyn Hall, March 24. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

CONSIDERING the destructive impact on artists and audiences caused by COVID-19, it’s refreshing to see that some groups have survived, thankfully Selby & Friends is one such alliance.

Celebrating composers who fought against the establishment, in this concert titled “Back From The Brink”, in Llewellyn Hall, performing together for the first time were Kathryn Selby, piano; Clancy Newman, cello and Dene Olding, violin.

The “Piano Trio” Op.150 by American composer Amy Beach, who wrote a strong rebuttal to comments made by Dvořák about women in music, was fittingly performed before Dvořák’s trio.

Atmospheric and artistic beauty best encapsulates an image of this trio by Beach. Romantic and contemporary are other descriptions of this delightful music.

The players created a big, lush sound like the music demands, but it’s also intimate and sensitive: an expression of love – and that was just the first movement. With echoes of a Hollywood romance film, the instruments sang to one another of an all-powerful passion.

Playfully delightful, even somewhat experimental, the music grew in style. That style was tonal, clear affecting music, played with an equally delightful balance and synchronicity.

And then came Antonin Dvořák’s “Piano Trio no. 1 in B flat Major”, Op. 21. This is a work that can be correlated to many pieces by Mozart or Beethoven but, of course, owning a Czech personality.

Full of form and structure, in a most professional sense, this is strong,  commanding music. The crescendos and then the obligatory falling back were all exhilaratingly performed. This is a work that swells. Turbulence and calm follow each other throughout.

Songs and melodies folk-like, fill this work. Each instrument’s part felt evenly balanced. The second movement is a masterpiece of aural delight. Profoundly deep, sorrowful and slightly nationalistic, overall, it was a grand trio that offered an ocean of bright and dark colours; what more could a music lover want?

After the interval, Maurice Ravel’s “Piano Trio in A minor”. Having heard the same piece just one month earlier, in the same venue, by the same make up of players, a female pianist and male string players, it was fun to compare the two performances.

Written just before World War I, this fascinating work still sounds fresh today. It has moments of ghostly, unearthly sensitivity, and full-blooded passion. Like a poem, almost untouchable, it speaks a transcendental statement through the sweetest of musical sounds.

This is music that will never stop being fascinating on so many levels. And like the group who played it a month earlier, this, and every work performed in this concert had a profound depth of artistic luminescence.

As always, in every Selby & Friends concert, no matter who is playing, this was a flawless and moving performance.