In Sydney, reports Rose Niland, I was thrilled once again that A Little Lunch Music afforded patrons the opportunity to feast on musical moments at lunchtime.
Kathryn Selby and her friend Timo-Veikko Valve at their concert on Thursday 26th February, 2015 presented their passion and expertise to an audience hungry for Beethoven’s Sonatas and ready to devour the Program with relish.
The City Recital Hall centrally located in the city of Sydney is a wonderful venue acoustically and architecturally. I sat amid a capacity audience observing the piano with its stark and graciously curved lid. It was shinny and strong waiting to be fondly bought alive by Kathryn Selby, Pianist and Artistic Director.
Kathryn Selby walked on stage oozing friendliness and was warmly welcoming. She was delighted to launch the first of A Little Lunch Music for the 2015 season. She explained to the audience that although the two Sonatas being performed were seemingly close, the music was “light years apart”.
Kathryn continued that there was uncertainty about how this early arrangement came about. But the fact that it had been given an Opus number suggested that somehow Beethoven approved of the arrangement or he did it himself.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in E flat major op. 64 first published in Vienna in 1807 opened the Program.
Both musicians began the first movement briskly and lyrically immediately transporting the audience into the enchanted musical realm of the classical tradition.
Timo-Veikko Valve played with passion rendering each note with a crisp, resonant and dramatic style that stirred the senses.
The interplay between the two instruments was beautiful as they sensitively executed the light and shade and contrasts within this wonderfully crafted composition. The theatrical delights of the piano and rich lower notes of the cello merged into a rapturous melody.
I loved the chemistry and connection between the performers. Timo-Veikko Valve is a very versatile musician who performs as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral leader on both modern and period instruments. Kathryn Selby is acclaimed as “Australia’s leading pre-eminent chamber music pianist.”
In addition she is the Artistic Director of both the popular nationally touring Selby and Friends concert series and the A Little Lunch Music series.
Together these two lively and virtuosic players shared a mutual fondness towards unlocking the imaginative possibilities of the music for the audience to embrace.
I was immersed in the tones of the piano tumbling and bouncing in and out of the musical shades of the cello.
Lots of strong dramatic phrases were built and then gently evolved into a smooth and rewarding flow of exquisite sound.
In the second movement the cello echoed the theme from the piano. These delicate echoes were carefully teased out and complemented by the plucking of the cello.
I felt a thread of joy was woven into the music and a sense of play was revealed as the musicians imparted an impassioned feel for the music of the second and third movements.
Darker, slower and more wistful notes flooded the City Recital Hall at the beginning of the fourth movement. A trace of melancholic longing was evoked by both instruments. A sense of pondering and contemplation seeped from the music.
An awareness of the sacred search for the beauty of sound stirred my emotions, poignantly delivering an insight into the wonders of composition. The musicians played with a reverential respect, a comforting sensitivity and an astute sensibility.
The final movement was faster and punctuated with the growing and flowing flourishing notes of the cello.
I experienced the power of the playing with sounds exploding, bubbling, bursting, wandering and recovering. The contrast of intense moments with gentle phrases was touching.
The love of performing by the musicians washed a wave of communal sharing across the audience and registered in their applause.
Kathryn Selby introduced the Sonata for Cello and Piano in A major op. 69 strongly voicing that it was very different to op. 64.
She expressed that by this time Beethoven was severely distressed by his hearing ailment and it was alienating him from his own craft.
She also commented that there was a more equal distribution of the cello and piano virtuosity making it a more egalitarian composition.
It was written in 1808 during Beethoven’s most productive compositional period. Kathryn Selby reminded the audience that Beethoven was not only a great pianist and composer but he was also an astute business man.
He dedicated this composition to his friend Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein.
Gleichenstein and Beethoven were not only friends and business partners but they courted sisters Anna and Therese Malfatti.
When Gleichenstein married Anna in 1811 his close relationship with Beethoven ended.
The cello in its lower register opened the first movement creating a sombre tone.
The piano’s response to the cello was lilting and led into a chasm of dark intensity.
Timo-Veikko Valve played with fervour and complete control. The relentless, slow and ponderous playing was sympathetically sustained.
I was aware of the suffering of a constant battle of wills, where the unyielding soul searching of the composer was trying desperately to understand his pain and exhibit the bravery required to survive.
In the music there was always a challenging and deeply frightening nuance.
Prevailing despair permeated the music, however there were moments of tenderness where tranquillity fluttered and grace and wisdom hovered in the character of the sound.
The second movement began more buoyantly, each note building forte and tenacity, seeking a positive sequel. Notes wrestled, ebbing and flowing, creating a feeling of isolation and anguish.
In the final movement beautiful sounds fell from Kathryn Selby’s touch, her fingers finessed the high notes as she mesmerised the audience with her fine performance of this introspective work.
Timo-veikko Valve’s joyous playing swivelled with artistry and eloquence, engaging the patrons in an infectious enthusiasm for the music.
The grace and beauty of this complex and soul-searching composition and its redemptive overtones were expertly explored by these passionate and perceptive musicians. They shared their love of the compositions and their incisive and intelligent musicianship with this lunch time audience.
It was a contagious connection.
Rose Niland, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015