A friend, indeed

Selby & Friends
James O Fairfax Theatre, NGA, September 12.
Reviewed by Clinton White

ANOTHER capacity audience enjoyed the latest in the 2011 season of recitals by Selby and Friends – well, this time there was only one friend, cellist Emma-Jane Murphy.

The bold programming featured music by Beethoven and Schubert from one end of the 19th century with Rachmaninov and Brahms from the other, all juxtaposing Peter Sculthorpe’s evocative piece, “Djilile” from 1986.

“Djilile” is based on an Aboriginal song from Arnhem Land. Sculthorpe says the locals “don’t seem to recognise it in any kind of instrumental form”. The cello and piano sang beautifully.

Perhaps the difficult Schubert work, the “Arpeggione Sonata”, from 1824 is Murphy’s favourite piece. Her playing was warm and expressive and was at ease with the rapid fingering required along the entire length of the fingerboard.

Sadly, we had to wait until the last piece, Brahms’ “Sonata for Cello and Piano No 2 in F Major”, before hearing Kathryn Selby’s virtuosic talent. Up till then she had been very much the accompanist. But this quite difficult and rather enigmatic piece brought to the fore the dynamics and moods of both instruments. The duo acquitted the demands of the piece with passion and emotion.

We hear rather too little of Selby’s keyboard prowess. It would be good to enjoy a piano sonata from her in a future recital.

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