Magnificent Concert

11th August, 2020 | Concert Reviews

By Steve Moffatt, Daily Telegraph, Wentworth Courier

Sydney pianist and concert promoter Kathryn Selby has brought her virtual concert season to a magnificent close with the fifth recital in ‘the year that never was’.

Steve Moffatt, Wentworth Courier, Daily Telegraph | November 8, 2020 3:10pm

Sydney pianist and concert promoter Kathryn Selby has brought her virtual concert season to a magnificent close with the fifth recital in “the year that never was”.

With only one of her 2020 Selby and Friends concerts performed in front of a live audience before the pandemic closed down concert halls in March, Selby had to re-purpose her programs and call on musicians who were on hand in Sydney.

The resulting four virtual programs, three of which were filmed in a live straight-through performance on the stage of an empty City Recital Hall, have all been excellent, showing the depth of talent the Harbour City enjoys when it comes to chamber music.

The last of the series, which comes at a time when live music is gradually returning in a scaled down, socially distanced format, features Selby with three superb musicians in violinist Susie Park and two principals from the Australian Chamber Orchestra, violist Stefanie Farrands and cellist Timo-Veikko “Tipi” Valve.

Park, who grew up in Sydney before moving to America, first came to prominence as a 14-year-old when she borrowed a $50 fiddle from her teacher and won first prize at the Cracow Violin Competition in Poland. Fortunately for us she had returned to her native city before COVID-19 struck.

MEMORIAL

Tagged Final Offerings, the subscription online recital comprises two Romantic masterpieces bookending perhaps the most powerful and disturbing piano trio of the 20th century, Shostakovich’s No. 2 in E minor Op 67. Written in 1944, it was composed both as a memorial to the Holocaust and a personal tribute to the Soviet composer’s friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, who died shortly before it was completed.

From the opening bars we know this is a world turned upside down by the fact that the cello, playing harmonics, is the highest instrument in the trio. This was a bravura performance. The eerily beautiful opening movement was finely judged and the crazy off-kilter scherzo second movement with its strange time signature was suitably disturbing.

The portentous opening piano chords of the passacaglia slow movement seem to sum up all the despair of war, and yet there is still a sense of beauty there. This gives way to the lively finale with its Jewish theme, used in the famous eighth string quartet.

In the post-concert chat – a fascinating video which gives insights into the music as well as background on the musicians – Park said of this piece that she needed to be “on the edge”, almost to the point of breaking a string, to convey the full emotion of the work and that playing it was like a catharsis for all the grief and feelings she had about this dreadful year.

More consoling are the other works on the program, Schubert’s Notturno – presumed to have been written for his E flat piano trio and abandoned – and Schumann’s piano quartet, with its andante featuring a melting duet between violin and cello.

Hopefully Selby and Friends’ next season, when it is finally announced, will be allowed to be played live and uninterrupted.

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