Selby & the Goldners – classikOn

14th May, 2024 | Concert Reviews

Selby & Friends | Luminaries

11 May, 2024, Turramurra Uniting Church, NSW

A celebration, not a farewell, applies to the imminent retirement of the Goldner Quartet who seem to be busier than ever in their final year. Add a touch of Kathryn Selby and you have an explosive mixture which any audience would be delighted to ignite.

Mozart himself adapted his 12th piano concerto for piano and string quintet – others have been similarly treated by other composers in particular his better known no. 23 also in A major (no one knows the distinction between these two works better than the poor entrant for the recent Sydney Piano Competition who learnt and practised K 488, discovering only on the day of performance that it was the more obscure K414 that was to be played!) Mozart adapted the work for the large number of amateur musicians that were unable to hear the live orchestral version but, as Kathryn explained, he had difficulty in finding a publisher.

The concerto, though rather simplistic in form has a lot of charm and loses nothing in this adaptation. A happy allegro has two main themes which undergo several modulations and later merge. A plaintive andante includes a quotation from an overture by Mozart’s tutor JC Bach, and gives way to a spritely theme and variations. All three movements have piano cadenzas written by the composer.

Tchaikovsky was a great admirer of Mozart and this is evident in some of his early works such as the Rococo variations. He wrote his first string quartet in D at the tender age of 31 and, in contrast to many of his works, it was immediately well-received. Praise focused on the andante cantabile movement whose main theme was based on a folk song that he heard a house painter sing at his country estate while the second theme was used in a 1940s song “On the Isle of May’. I found the opening moderato particularly engaging with its swinging rhythms and pizzicato segments. One for the notebook.

I have to confess that I was bowled over by Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor. Full of discordant notes that because of the brilliancy of the composer and the quintet weren’t! The second movement fugue was played by the first violin, second violin, cello, viola and extreme bass of the piano in turn giving an eery but melodic effect. The scherzo had a beat exactly the same as the Somerset folksong “Widdicombe Fair” and I wonder if Dimitri, who was a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, knew this tune. After a very sad Intermezzo and a boisterous Finale, the work ends in a whimper.

The Goldner Quartet just goes from strength to strength, while Kathryn Selby’s playing and programme selection gave rise to a superb afternoon’s listening.

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