City Recital Hall season opener

9th March, 2017 | Concert Reviews

Selby and Friends off to a youthful and confident season start

Steve Moffatt, NewsLocal | March 9, 2017 4:30pm

YOUTH and opportunity were the themes of Selby and Friends’ opening concert for the year and, appropriately, it marked the return of violinist Grace Clifford who made an enormous impression as a 14-year-old guest of pianist Kathryn Selby’s ensemble four years ago.

But her appearance wasn’t the only youthful connection as some of the proceeds from ticket sales went to the Katrina Dawson Foundation, which was set up in memory of the Lindt siege victim to provided education opportunities for young women.

The program, titled Youth and the Dance, also featured the first piano trios of both Ludwig van Beethoven and Camille Saint-Saens, while the dance element was provided by Antonin Dvorak’s Dumky Trio with its contrasting slow yearning melodies and rapid folk-inspired foot-tapping tunes.

Joining Selby and Clifford was American cellist and composer Clancy Newman, the son of Australian parents and a regular visitor to this country.


Beethoven ignored his former mentor Joseph Haydn’s cautious advice against publishing his first three piano trios as a set for his Opus 1, nailing his colours to the mast as a brash revolutionary from the start.

Introducing the first of the set, Selby said that this demonstration of confidence and courage was an inspiration to her in times of doubt.

Kathryn Selby draws inspiration from a young Beethoven.

It’s hard for modern audiences to see what Haydn was worried about with the work’s sparkling opening movement worthy of the old man himself.

The lovely singing lines of the adagio gave Clifford, who’s in her second year of studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, an opportunity to show why her sweet tone and assured technique caused such a sensation when she won the ABC Young Performers Award in 2014.

But Beethoven was a concert pianist and Selby’s authoritative handling of the charming scherzo and the madcap finale, with the piano hopping like a small bird being chased by the string players, was a highlight.

Saint-Saens was a child prodigy who missed out on growing up. As his admirer Hector Berlioz famously quipped: “He knows everything, but lacks inexperience.”

But his first trio shows that he was capable of some childlike fun, much as his best-loved work the Carnival of Animals does, although the Frenchman banned that suite from being performed while he was alive lest it detracted from his reputation as a serious composer.

Newman was spectacular in the Dumky, his generous use of vibrato perfect for the Bohemian mixture of pathos and passion

In this trio the strings were much more to the fore, with Clifford and Newman combining deftly in the second movement where the hurdy-gurdy like drone of the opening gives way to echoing flights of fancy.

Cellist and composer Clancy Newman.

Dvorak, like Schubert, often gave his best tunes to the cello and Newman was spectacular in the Dumky, his generous use of vibrato perfect for the Bohemian mixture of pathos and passion.

Clifford for the most part fired off both her colleagues well, although at times this listener was left hoping for a little more fire and derring-do.

For an encore, and in recognition International Women’s Day, Selby and her friends performed the Lied movement from Fanny Mendelssohn’s Piano trio Op 11.

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