Luminaries review – Canberra Critics Circle

20th May, 2024 | Concert Reviews

LUMINARIES – Selby & Friends with the Goldner String Quartet.

James Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, May 17, 2024

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

As soon as it was announced that the Goldner Quartet had decided to disband, but would be doing a lap of honour farewell tour with pianist, Kathryn Selby, as part of her 2024 Selby & Friends concert series,  it was a given that their Canberra concert would be a sell-out.

The Goldner Quartet is considered Australia’s pre-eminent string quartet, ranking among the best in the world. It is unique in that it has maintained the same four members (two married couples) throughout its 30 years of existence.

Individual members of the quartet have worked with Kathryn Selby in various combinations over several decades, but this is the first time the entire Goldner String Quartet have joined her for this seven concert tour.

Appropriately the repertoire selected for the tour was chosen from works of particular significance to the quartet, which, having a pianist of Selby’s brilliance available to them, took the opportunity to include two favourite piano quintets, Mozart’s own arrangement of his Piano Concerto, No. 12 in A Major, and Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op.57, which they teamed with Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 in D Major.

The intimacy of the James Fairfax Theatre provided the perfect ambiance as most of the audience were familiar with the Goldner Quartet and aware of the significance of the occasion, and therefore keen to demonstrate their appreciation for the pleasure derived from the Goldner Quartet’s concerts over the years.

Of course there were others, like this reviewer, who were well aware of the Goldner Quartet’s reputation and accomplishments from their recordings and DVDs, and had even experienced the talent of individual members as a result of their participation in the Selby & Friends concerts, but had not had the opportunity previously to experience the Goldner Quartet live in performance together, and were therefore keen to take advantage of this opportunity to rectify that situation. What a treat the actuality turned out to be.

As is her habit, Kathryn Selby introduced the quartet. Then, after expressing her pleasure at the opportunity of being able to share in their music-making, took her place at the piano and they launched into the Mozart Concerto.

Such was the atmosphere that audience members hardly dared to breathe.  Every member was aware of being privy to the rare opportunity of sharing a special moment with life-long friends who have been making music together for decades luxuriating in one of their last opportunities to revisit favourite works together and share their unique individual musical insights with each other.

The Mozart was perfection in execution, blend and phrasing. It was difficult to imagine how it could be interpreted with more insight or skill.

Similarly with Tchaikovsky’s Accordion Quartet, full of temperament and passion, except in the famous second movement, Andante Cantabile which is based on a Ukrainian folk song and often performed on its own. Dene Olding’s violin could not have sung more sweetly, nor could Dimity Hall (violin), Irina Morozova (Viola) or Julian Smiles (cello) have blended their instruments with more care or insight. Simply exquisite.

The final offering was Shostakovich’s intriguing Piano Quintet in G Minor which, unlike most quintets where the instruments blend, gives each instrument its individual voice. Haunting, sometimes folksy, discordant or melancholy but always unmistakably Russian, each of the musicians revelled in capturing the exact tone and mood of what is arguably Shostakovich’s most famous work.

Responding to the audience applause, the five musicians offered a superb excerpt from Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Concerto as a very welcome encore.

Happily, just in case you’re reading this and fretting because you missed this memorable concert, or would like to relive the experience, you might be interested to learn that Artsound FM recorded this concert for future broadcast by Artsound FM 92.7. The broadcast date will be published on the Artsound website.

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