Friday, November 1, 2019

Selby and Friends: Beethoven’s Back

Kathryn Selby

Beethoven’s Back; Llewellyn Hall 7.30pm Thursday October 31st.
Review: Jennifer Gall

ANDREW Haveron, violin and Richard Narroway, Cello, joined Kathryn Selby to perform three Beethoven chamber works at the Llewellyn Hall. 
There is always no doubt that Selby is well loved by the large audience of loyal patrons and it is clear that her musical tours are an essential part of Canberra’s musical life.
If I had to choose one word to describe the mood of the repertoire for this concert, it would be equanimity. While there were plenty of the dramatic dynamic contrasts and striking emotional explorations that are the hallmarks of Beethoven’s music, each work resolved to leave the listener in a state of calm composure. My one reservation was that the volume of the piano interfered with the balance between instruments, occasionally suggesting that the nuances in the cello and violin voices were compromised. The Llewellyn Hall Steinway is an assertive animal that will maintain the clarity of articulation and depth of tone with the lid lowered.
The Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major, Op.102 No.1 composed in 1815 opened the concert and introduced the clean, precise grace of Narroway’s cello performance. Beginning with the opening theme clothed in a reverie, the Andante proceeded in an intimate, languorous conversation between piano and cello which was abruptly terminated by the startling Allegro Vivace, like a lover’s quarrel. In the second movement, once again, a slow, serious introduction developed the duet of piano and cello with more florid passages, tangling and separating to return in unison to the opening theme of the Andante. With the entry of the Allegro Vivace, a playful chase ensued as the instruments mimicked the emotional games of youthful lovers.
1802 was the momentous year in which Beethoven was ordered to rest in Heiligenstadt in an attempt to rest and stop advancing deafness. The Sonata for Violin and Piano No.7 in C minor, Op.30 No. 2 channels despair into creativity with exciting complexity of form. Contrasting a taut central theme with a march-like motif, the opening Allegro develops, stretches and distorts these themes dramatically and Haveron’s skilled interpretation highlighted the conflicting energies in this movement. Selby and Haveron created a particularly lyrical beauty in their performance of the Adagio cantabile, building the hymn-like melody into a sinuous intertwining duet. The succeeding two movements consolidated the close partnership and closed dramatically in the Finale Allegro.
A nice balance of instrument voices characterised the first movement of the Piano Trio in E flat major, Op. 70 No.2. Cello and violin were synchronised elegantly in the Allegretto. As the Trio unfolded, I had an image in the mind’s eye of the music describing a good humoured conversation amongst friends  -  or perhaps Beethoven in conversation with Hayden as some musicologists have suggested. Either way, this evening of Beethoven’s chamber music brought the composer to life with distinctive Selby and Friends flair.