MUSIC – The Age
In the Shadow of War ★★★★
Selby & Friends, Melbourne Recital Centre, August 23
A timely exploration of how the threat of war shapes musical composition, this thoughtfully contrasted sequence of piano trios saw pianist Kathryn Selby, together with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra co-concertmaster Sophie Rowell and Australian Chamber Orchestra principal cellist Timo-Veikko Valve, marry their high technical values with profound and searching expression.
Sydney-based composer Matthew Hindson’s 1915 set a sombre, haunting scene. This atmospheric work is a tender elegy imagining life in that fateful year when many young lives were lost at Gallipoli. Beginning with ghostly, high harmonics on the cello, the relatively brief but effectively constructed score built to a tender melodic climax before Rowell’s closing violin harmonics reiterated a sense of a distant past.
Written towards the end of World War II, Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67 lays bare the horror of war. This performance brought aching gravitas to the work’s emotional core, the desolate third movement, where the slowly revolving ground bass seems to symbolise a world of never-ending sorrow.
After an evocative opening, again featuring Valve’s perfectly tuned harmonics, the giddy sarcasm of the dance-like second and fourth movements was well realised, the climaxes at times almost overwhelming the intimate, sensitive acoustics of the Recital Centre’s Salon.
Schubert’s sunny Piano Trio in E-flat major, D. 929 seems a world away from war, although Napoleon’s militarism and the composer’s impending death may well have overshadowed its conception.
Selby and her co-conspirators sparkled during the outer movements, while deftly shaping the Swedish folksong in the second movement and delighting in Schubert’s trademark interplay between major and minor modes. Plenty of rhythmic drive complemented by finely calibrated dynamics fuelled a hope-filled finish to an otherwise sobering program.
Probing and well delivered, here was a celebration of music’s power to engage with the entirety of the human condition.
Reviewed by Tony Way