Dance / “Happiness is…Celebrating 40 Years of Canberra Dance Theatre”. Directed by Jacqui Simmonds at The Street Theatre. October 14. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS
Pianist, Kathryn Selby, was joined by friends Andrew Haveron (violin), Tobias Breider (viola), and Umberto Clerici (cello), in a program as diverse as their cultural heritages. Haveron is English, Breider is German and Clerici is Italian, all holding principal instrument chairs with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, with Haveron as concertmaster. Selby herself has Hungarian heritage.
The opening work, Mozart’s “Piano Quartet No 1 in G Minor”, K478, was written in 1785. From the very first notes, the quartet members were as one, playing in the lightest and airiest of styles, every nuance of Mozart’s sublime writing shining exquisitely with a clarity that only the best musicians can reveal. Their playing of the middle, slow, movement, in particular, was rich beyond measure in its beauty.
Then it was up to 1931 and the “Piano Quartet in A Minor”, Op 67, by the Spanish composer, Joaquín Turina. In introducing this work, Haveron described it as a “grab bag of ideas”. And so it was a grab bag, but one in which the contents come together superbly. There were hints of the romantic period hanging on by the fingernails, but ultimately giving way to modern harmonies and stylings bordering on jazz, all mixed with spades of Spanish flamenco and dance, and more than a touch of castanets. There even were suggestions of Gershwin.
Selby and her friends immersed themselves deeply into the spirit of this highly entertaining and interesting work, from the brooding start through the fire of Spanish music to the flourishing finish. A truly marvellous performance.
To close the program, Selby took the audience back to 1889 and the “Piano Quartet No 2 in E-flat Major”, Op 87, by the Czech composer, Antonín Dvořák. For this gargantuan romantic period work of symphonic proportions, the four musicians took all the melodies, rhythms, moods and huge dynamics and filled them with myriad colours to paint an extraordinary canvass of movement, from waltzes to gypsy dances and lively folk tunes. As was the case with the middle movement in the Mozart, the second movement of this quartet, marked “Lento”, drew luscious, heartfelt playing of the utmost sensitivity.
This was a fitting conclusion to the 2017 Canberra season of Selby & Friends. The capacity audience left the concert in a sense of awe at the musicianship displayed and with anticipation of an equally enthralling season promised in 2018.