Kathryn Selby is not short of friends – the quality of her pianism and selection of her programmes is testament to that as is the number of her fans. Today’s concert at Turramurra titled “Basically Beethoven” consisted of three Piano trios by the above.
On this occasion, Kathryn was joined by Daniel Dodd on violin and Timo-Veikko Valve on cello. Daniel received his musical education in Switzerland and the Netherlands, is now based in Lucerne and is Artistic Director of “Festival Strings Lucerne”. “Tipi” is Principal Cello of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and, like Daniel, also frequently plays as soloist. He has a particular association with music from his native Finland.
The first Trio was Op 11 in B Flat Major. It is lighter in style than the Op 1 trios and was written originally with the clarinet taking the cello part. The first movement is dominated by a forceful main theme beginning with coupled loud chords. The Adagio has a simple melody with a turbulent middle section ending somnolently. None such in the finale which consists of a bouncy tune, which gives rise to the work’s nickname “Gassenhauer” meaning basically “Hit Tune”. Nine variations follow which emphasise the main theme’s catchy nature.
In Op 1 no 3 in C minor, which followed, Beethoven is already showing his maturity and originality of thought. The first theme of the opening movement quickly moves up a semitone, quite revolutionary at the time – the movement continues in a turbulent manner to a dramatic conclusion. A much lighter Andante with variations is followed by a jaunty minuet and quieter Trio. Drama returns in the Finale, again with remote key changes, but ending with a sudden quietness.
The most interesting piece followed after the interval, Op 36 in D being as it is, a transcription of Beethoven’s Second Symphony. It’s unusual to hear such a familiar work with three instruments rather than forty and it is not easy to form an opinion on first hearing (the work is rarely performed). It must be remembered that orchestral concerts were infrequent at the time and this sort of arrangement helped spread his name to a wider audience. It’s a mystery why he chose only this Symphony to treat in this way, although he may have adapted other works in a similar fashion though not published as such.
In the first movement, there was no loss of the work’s familiar character, with lively segments following a slow introduction. The volume produced by the three instruments was really impressive. Strangely, I felt that the slow movement suffered the most from the transformation, perhaps the quieter episodes not contrasting as much with the livelier ones . The Scherzo (the first ever use of this musical form) seemed to almost benefit from the transition with its contrasting Trio using all the pianist’s skill. The Finale was as exuberant as ever and was followed by enthusiastic applause.
The playing of the Trio was exemplary throughout and Kathryn held the group together with her accurate tempi while the audience felt the nuances of the music. The programme was brilliantly constructed with interesting but infrequently played works being balanced by an adaptation of a popular work. A really enjoyable Spring afternoon.