Sweet treats of a musical ‘mousse’

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“Friends and Admirers”
Selby & Friends
James O Fairfax Theatre, NGA, Monday, May 7.
Review by Clinton White

INTRODUCING Stravinksy’s “Suite Italienne” for violin and piano, Kathryn Selby’s friend, violinist Sophie Rowell, said it was the palate cleanser in a concert of chocolate mousse.

In fact, it was so light and transparent, except for the rather ponderous minuet, that it deceived the audience into thinking it was easy to play. It required consummate skill (especially with all that violin double-stop work in the minuet), and Rowell and Selby acquitted its demands brilliantly.

The chocolate mousse was penned by composers of the romantic era, Danish composer, Niels Gade, along with Chopin and the seductive lyricism of Mendelssohn. Therein lies the inspiration for “Friends and Admirers”.

Mendelssohn gave Gade his start when no-one else would. Chopin greatly admired Mendelssohn, too, and they became good friends.

Chopin’s predilection for the piano shows up in his “Sonata for Cello & Piano” Op 65, played by Canberra cellist Julian Smiles. At times the cello seemed almost extraneous, except for the largo. Smiles was expressive and mournful. Surely, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The closer, Mendelssohn’s first piano trio, was the pick. All three immersed themselves into the quite long piece; a tour-de-force of expression, melody, contrasts, lyricism. The audience certainly enjoyed it and was rewarded with an encore, the slow movement from Clara Schumann’s piano trio.

Selby, of course, was wonderful. Her hands were mesmerising, gliding effortlessly over the keys to give the foundation that can only be produced by the kind of empathy she has for the music.

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