Passionate trio plays romance that sticks

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Kathryn Selby

Music / “Love & Devotion”, Selby & Friends, Llewellyn Hall, May 6. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

PERHAPS the most bittersweet relationship in all classical music history is the one between Clara and Robert Schumann and their devoted friend, Johannes Brahms.

Joining artistic director and pianist Kathryn Selby, were violinist Grace Clifford and ACO principal cellist Timo-Veikko Valve in a concert that explored romantic piano trios and more.

Clara Schumann’s “Three Romances for Violin and Piano” Op. 22 tell a dreamy story. These romances were full of warmth and tenderness. Clifford on violin melted through her notes with a combination of deep swirling tones and light fluttering notes up high.

While Selby at the piano and Clifford on violin played from sheet music, Clifford stood back from her music stand more than two meters at times and only occasionally looked at the score. This shows a good understanding and feeling for the music, especially for someone at the age of twenty.

Clifford has quickly developed into a player of presence and style. She flowed with the music and moved freely around the stage, whereas Selby was at her best on the piano.

Timo-Veikko Valve, whose nickname is Tipi, joined Selby and Clifford on stage for Robert Schumann’s “Piano Trio No.1 in D minor”, Op. 63. Selby spoke about the relationship between the three composers on the program, as did Clifford on Clara Schumann’s three romances. Then Tipi spoke about the dialogue between the three pieces.

The brooding opening to Schumann’s “Piano Trio No.1 in D minor” lays the path for the rest of this dramatic and tender work. Each instrument gets its equal share of the score throughout all four movements.

For performers who do not regularly play together, all three showed an amazing understanding of each other’s volume and timing. Everything was played with a secure balance. In the third movement, there is a lovely smooth connection between the cello and violin. As one player ended a melody, the other took it up and when together, all three made music of the most passionate kind. This movement has some of the most gentle music in any trio.

After the interval, the performers were back on stage for the final work from this trilogy of closely connected composers. They played “Piano Trio No. 1 in B major”, Op. 8, by Johannes Brahms. This flowing music had some of the most recognisable and heartfelt tunes in all romantic music.

This is the sort of music that stays with a listener long after it is heard. It’s full of beguiling tunes, well thought out harmonies and dynamic dance-like rhythms. These three exceptionally together performers made the music of the whole concert stand out on so many levels. It’s playing like this from Selby & Friends that keep filling concert halls.

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