Enjoyable concert of music’s game changers

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Kathryn Selby

Music / “The Game Changers”, Selby & Friends. At Llewellyn Hall, 2 September. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

THIS concert by pianist Kathryn Selby, with violinist Susie Park and cellist Julian Smiles, focused on four composers considered to be game changers – artists whose influential work has made a significant impact upon the world of classical music. 

The work of each composer is distinctive and recognisable. Ravel, Britten and Dvořák wrote in the 19th and 20th centuries. Kats-Chernin, born in 1957, rightly takes her place amongst this illustrious group. She is also producing works that are so uniquely her own.

Selby & Friends concerts have a special feeling. It may have been held in the Llewellyn Hall but the concert had the feel of an intimate soiree. The cavernous hall has been curtained off halfway to give a chamber music ambience. Kathryn Selby addressed the audience at the start of the concert in a relaxed, down-to-earth style that is immensely appealing and informative about the music to be presented.

Her “friends” also gave a talk about the works they were about to perform.

Both Susie Park and Julian Smiles were at ease when talking to the audience at length and provided interesting information about the works they were about to feature in.

It was particularly interesting to hear their feelings about the works and they gave brief demonstrations to give us a clue about particular moments to look out for. This style of presentation is enjoyable and makes us, the audience, feel much more a part of the proceedings.

All four works presented were well played by these top-calibre performers. The opening item, “Blue Silence for piano trio” by Elena Kats-Chernin, was written in 2006 for an exhibition devoted to artists suffering schizophrenia. It’s a hauntingly beautiful work.

Benjamin’s Britten’s “Cello Sonata in C major” was written in 1961 with Britten’s friend, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, in mind. It has an epic and, at times, other-world quality about it. There are strongly edgy moments and the furiously energetic finale was particularly well-played by Smiles and Selby.

Maurice Ravel’s “Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major”, composed between 1923 and 1927, has a unique second movement entitled “Blues Moderato”. Almost Gershwin-like at times, the jazz influence is very clear. It has a dark undercurrent that are unsettling and this demanding work was given a fine performance by Parks and Selby.

The final work presented, Antonin Dvořák’s 1883 “Piano Trio in F minor”, has an exquisite third movement with beautiful melodies passing back and forth between violin and cello in delightful combinations. The entire work was played superbly by all three artists, bringing this enjoyable concert to a close.

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