Patriot Games – “A trio of the best musicians in Australia – if not the World” ClassikOn

18th May, 2021 | Concert Reviews

A trio of the best musicians in Australia – if not the World
by Tony Burke for ClassikOn
May 17, 2021

A glorious Autumn afternoon in leafy Turramurra and a live concert featuring three of the best musicians in Australia if not the World – one needed to pinch oneself to be sure it wasn’t a dream. Dene Olding and Julian Smiles are familiar to most as members of the renowned Goldner Quartet and play a 1720 Guarnerius violin and an 1827 Ventapane cello respectively. Kathryn Selby always attracts the top performers and presents varied and attractive programmes. She plays a 2007 Kawai!

The title of this recital was “Patriot Games“ as each piece was associated with the country of origin of the composer. The trio took turns to introduce each piece and it was Dene who gave us insight into Ross Edwards’ style especially his liturgical accents and his portrayal of Australian animals, insects in particular. The piano introduces his Trio while the strings take over with a new more dramatic theme. Later there are typical “jumpy“ episodes. A fittingly autumnal and hymn-like adagio is followed by a buoyant finale featuring glissandos and huge leaps on the piano as well as the composer’s signature three note descending diphthongs representing the insect life of the bush.

Henrique Granados’ life history makes interesting reading, having drowned trying to save his wife after their ship was torpedoed in 1916 but as Kathryn told us, a lot of his work remained uncatalogued and his Piano Trio op 50 vanished from the repertoire for many years. The first movement has episodes of sadness, joy and romanticism and it is only in the last theme that the Spanish idiom comes to the fore. A rollicking Scherzo follows and the central ground bass Trio connects back to the main theme by way of another Fandango-like episode. A lullaby of a “Duetto” follows and includes a dramatic interlude. The Finale is a rollicking, revolving affair and I wonder if it was the inspiration for Charles Williams’s “Devil’s Gallop”.

Unfamiliar music but invigorating and well-received.

After a refreshing interval, Julian extolled the virtues of Antonin Dvořák emphasising the abundance of separate tunes. This wasn’t evident in the opening Allegro which ends with a repeated seven note figure that recurs in the fourth movement. As Julian presaged, the furiant Allegretto is remarkable in that the strings provide a background in 4/4 time and the piano enters after in 3/4 time giving an almost syncopated feel. This requires the pianist to be self-assertive and this pianist certainly was. It is this 3/4 tune which wins in the end and the strings bow to it. A characteristically Slavic Adagio expressed openly is followed by an Allegro which proceeds apace until a penultimate slow section giving way to a forceful Presto, a technique that the composer also uses in his Cello Concerto.

The sun was still shining when the audience left but I doubt if they would have noticed had there been heavy snow on the ground, such was the standard and originality of the music and of the performers.

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