Selby and Friends serve up love and devotion

8th May, 2019 | Concert Reviews

By Steve Moffatt, Wentworth Courier

May 8, 2019 2:56pm

In the lead-up to Mother’s Day pianist Sydney Kathryn Selby has come up with a fitting way to start her latest tour, tagged Love and Devotion.

The program is built around one of the most intriguing love triangles in classical music — that of Clara and Robert Schumann and a young Johannes Brahms.

Clara certainly seized life by the horns, having been trained by her autocratic father to become a child piano prodigy, later being the breadwinner when she married the composer Robert, and bringing 10 children into the world — four of whom died before she did.

Things became worse for her when Robert attempted suicide and committed himself to an insane asylum, where he died two years later.

So it is remarkable that she managed to find time and space to compose. “I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — there has never yet been one able to do it,” she famously said.


Fortunately for us she sold herself short and wrote some fine works, including 3 Romances for Violin and Piano which opened this concert featuring the fine young Australian violinist Grace Clifford, who has become a regular Selby “friend” since she made a great impression as a 14-year old guest in 2013.

The three contrasting pieces — the first slow and yearning, then a playful middle section and finally flowing violin lines over a restless piano accompaniment — proved well suited to Clifford’s expressive and assured style.

The 20-year-old’s delicate phrasing and shaping was occasionally a little too delicate for some of the fierier passages in the work that followed, Robert Schumann’s passionate Piano Trio No. 1, for which Selby and Clifford were joined by Australian Chamber Orchestra’s principal cello Timo-Veikko Valve, but the two string players combined well behind the driving piano part adroitly handled by Selby.

Its instantly recognisable opening brought an audible sigh of appreciation from the audience

The highlight of the evening was an astute and heartfelt performance of Brahms’s Piano Trio No 1, a work he had completed and published shortly before meeting the Schumanns. Almost symphonic in length and vision, this much-loved work stretches to 40 minutes and its memorable melodies and sweeping passion live on in the mind long after the performance finishes.

Its instantly recognisable opening, with Valve’s contemplative cello solo, brought an audible sigh of appreciation from the audience.

The concert is repeated on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12, at Turramurra Uniting Church at 2.15pm.


● CONCERT: Selby & Friends

● WHERE: City Recital Hall Angel Place

● WHEN: Tuesday, May 7

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