The latest Sydney Mozart Society concert was cleverly timed to coincide with the opening of Vivid Chatswood but, fortunately, although the visual aspect was welcoming, we were insulated from the sound effects.
On this occasion, Kathryn Selby continued her well-established friendship with the Society, aided by two distinguished musicians. Andrew Haveron was born in London and studied at the Purcell School and Royal College of Music, following which he played as first violin in major orchestras in the UK and Europe including the World Orchestra for Peace. For eight years, he was first violinist of the Brodsky Quartet, acknowledged as England’s finest. He arrived in Sydney in 2013 as Co-Concertmaster of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and has flourished in that role. He also appears frequently as soloist, notably when he performed Walton’s Violin Concerto with the SSO marking the debut of his 1787 Guadagnini violin, loaned by a sponsor of the Orchestra.
Timo-Viekko Valve studied at his home Sibelius Academy of Helsinki and at the Edsberg Institute in Stockholm. He joined the Australian Chamber Orchestra as principal cellist in 2006 but has continued in a very active soloist career in particular championing works by modern Scandinavian composers such as Koskelin and Mustonen. He plays on a seventeenth century Amati cello.
Kathryn Selby is of course well-known to most and has become something of a national treasure. Her Selby and Friends series tours encompass several state capitals and regional centres. Her huge pianistic talent attracts the very best artists to play with her.
Beethoven would have been honoured to be the focus of attraction at a Mozart Society concert and if they never met, they certainly did so spiritually. The first piece was in fact variations on the aria “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen (In men who feel love)” from Mozart’s Magic Flute in which Papageno and Pamina extol the virtues of love and marriage. As is only natural, the higher registers of the piano represent the female voice and the cello the birdcatcher’s. It was written in 1801 at the dawn of the composer’s second period and, although it follows a fairly typical variations template, rays of his talent and inventiveness shine through, in particular in a powerful coda before the return of the main theme.
The “Spring” Sonata was written at about the same time as the above but is technically more advanced. Although the title is not the composer’s, I feel he would have approved the name for what is a cheerful and optimistic work. Unlike its predecessor op. 23, which is sombre in nature, the content is divided equally between the instruments and there is an additional third movement. The opening lyrical theme is well-known but Beethoven later casts it in a minor key producing an unsettled and dramatic effect typical of his later works. The second movement is an Adagio based on a simple theme expressed by the instruments in turn and is notable for not including a more stormy section. The Scherzo lasts only a minute but even so contains a Trio section more dramatic than the expressive opening. The Finale is a jubilant Rondo with numerous themes and a lively coda to end a great work appropriately.
After the interval, Andrew Haveron gave an entertaining introduction explaining what it was like to play Beethoven’s Triple Concerto op. 56 from three vantage points: one as a soloist, one as an orchestral player, and one, as now, as a chamber group player. The work has attracted a good deal of controversy being lighter in form than Beethoven’s other Concertos and I have to admit that the first time that I heard it on the radio, I was surprised when the credits were announced. This adaptation for the trio minus the orchestra was penned by Carl Reinecke, one of the many composers famous in his time but now largely forgotten, in 1860. The fact that the piano part is not too complicated is possibly explained by its being written for his pupil, the Archduke Rudolph although there is no evidence that he ever played it. The work is certainly not lacking in tuneful themes, particularly in the long first movement while the sublime Largo contains a beautiful cello obligato. The third movement is titled “Polish Rondo”, mainly I feel because of the energetic middle minor key section.
This was a superb way to end the concert. Needless to say, the three soloists excelled both in accuracy and in interpretation. Beethoven would definitely have approved although he might have been alarmed by the dazzling lights and the oompah music as he left the concert hall!