Review: Selby and Friends: Patriot Games
Elder Hall, 9 May
Sydney pianist Kathryn Selby and friends are back playing Patriot Games and – as always with Selby and Friends – it’s a winner
By Peter Burdon
The second of the popular Selby and Friends annual touring program was titled “Patriot Games”, with particular reference to the homelands of Australia’s Ross Edwards, the Spaniard Enrique Granados and the great Czech composer Antonin Dvořák.
Kathryn Selby is joined on this tour by Dene Olding (violin) and Julian Smiles (cello), a trio to be reckoned with.
And to be sure, Ross Edwards’s music is quintessentially Australian, at least by citizenship. If his music is not as resonant of our ancient land and the world’s oldest culture as that of, say, Peter Sculthorpe, it has such an immediate familiarity that it cannot be mistaken for the work of another.
The Piano Trio from 1998 is one of Edward’s most popular works, and justly so. The sweeping, soaring violin melody in the first movement, with frequent forays into the highest registers of the instruments, clamour for recognition. The slow movement is one of his most beautiful, while the finale has the jerky, syncopated rhythms that make his works so very popular.
Granados’s Piano Trio from 1894 was only recovered in the mid 1970s, and it has only been since 2013 that a decent performing edition has been available.
What a find it is, one of the earliest substantial chamber works from any Spanish composer, rich with the influences of other masters, but with an idiom of its own.
The first movement is resolutely romantic, but in the inner movements, Scherzetto and Duetto (for all three instruments!) there are greater allusions to his homeland, with playful, guitar-like effects in the former, and pulsing syncopations in the latter. The Finale returned to a more thoroughgoing romanticism.
Dvořák’s Piano Trios are core works in the trio repertoire, and the third, the F minor Op. 65, is arguably the most serious of the lot – certainly when compared with the popular ‘Dumky’ trio No. 4. Brahms casts a long shadow over the work, but Slavic nationalist fervour, too, is there for all to hear.
Selby was right at home in the first movement, where the piano often storms about like a whirlwind. The energy was sustained in the second movement, bristling with accents and cross-rhythms. The third movement, the only slower section, was supremely tender and not a little nostalgic, while the finale had a momentum all its own – an unexpected echo of the slow movement notwithstanding.
Selby and Friends really is the very best of its breed.