Kathryn Selby and friends show precision to create delightful textures
Selby & Friends; By Arrangement, City Recital Hall, May 23
Reviewed by Peter McCallum
Two of the three works in this concert focused on the practice, common before the recording age, of transcribing orchestral music for smaller groups so that listeners could get to know the music in their own homes.
Johann Peter Salomon was the violinist and impresario who organised for the world’s then most famous composer, Joseph Haydn, to come to its largest city, London, in the 1790s. In the same entrepreneurial spirit, he made the somewhat unremarkable piano trio arrangement that opened this concert of one of the symphonies Haydn composed for his second visit, the Symphony No. 96 in D major (the Miracle).
Salomon gives almost all the main ideas to the piano while relegating the violin and cello parts to bass and filling roles, making the work congenial for amateurs but mismatched for players of the calibre of Andrew Haveron and Timo-Veikko Valve in the concert hall.
By contrast, Carl Reinecke’s 1867 arrangement of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C major, Opus 56 (1804), for the same instruments made a stronger impact in this performance than the work’s original often makes with full orchestra. When played on modern instruments but with Beethoven’s full scoring, it can be difficult to balance the weight of orchestra and soloists, and for the latter to achieve the right dynamism. In this arrangement and with the skill of Kathryn Selby, Haveron and Valve, that problem disappeared and the work’s ideas and structure were unleashed with bold energy, with the performers fully alive to, and capable of, both its soloistic and ensemble dimensions.
Matt van Brink’s 2006 arrangement of four movements from Ravel’s le Tombeau de Couperin (1919) had an altogether different motivation in that the original for solo piano is perfectly amenable to domestic performance as long as you have a virtuoso pianist around the house. Ravel arranged four of the six movements for the orchestral concert hall and van Brink’s texturally imaginative arrangement makes a further adaptation of these movements for concert (or highly expert amateur) performance by a chamber group.
Selby, Haveron and Valve brought translucent clarity and finely etched precision to create textures of scintillating delight.