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The Goldners say goodbye on a seamless high

Pianist Kathryn Selby and the Goldner Quartet performing at the National Gallery. Photo: Dalice Trost

Music / Goldner Quartet with Kathryn Selby. At the James O Fairfax Hall, NGA. Reviewed by SARAH BYRNE.

For 18 seasons, pianist and musical impresaria Kathryn Selby has been curating and touring her popular Selby & Friends concerts in which she is joined by classical ensembles for what often seem like intimate and even personal performances of great music. 

This concert, in the bijou venue of the James O Fairfax Hall at the NGA, was a fitting farewell from the storied Goldner Quartet, for whom I have a particular fondness – leader Dene Olding is the son of the late, great Max Olding, under whom my mother studied at the Queensland Conservatorium, and the quartet frequently collaborates with pianist Piers Lane, who was her classmate in the same year (and whose brother was articled to my father). I am so sad they are retiring, but grateful for the 30 years given us.

The program started out with the three-movement Mozart Piano Concerto No 12 in A major, which might just be the quintessential Mozart piece – it contains absolutely everything you find familiar and lovely about Mozart’s work. 

Selby and the Goldners worked together seamlessly and generously – you can tell they have been friends for years. There is a beautiful selflessness about the way these musicians work together; entirely in service of the music, that was a joy to watch as well as listen to. 

The next work was a welcome favourite – Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 1 in D Major. Again, the extraordinary sympathy and synchronicity amongst the Goldners is a remarkable thing. I don’t know if I have ever seen such perfectly co-ordinated playing in an ensemble.

The accordion-style dynamics in the first movement, the sonata form moderato e semplice, were so united they really could have been coming from a single instrument; the familiar andante was as sad and beautiful as anyone could have hoped, and the last two movements were almost supernaturally in sync; with some suitably cheeky cello pizzicato in the scherzo and the dual melody in the allegro passed around amongst the musicians with a sleight of hand worthy of a game of three-card monte.

The nominal last piece for the night was the Shostakovich Piano Quintet in G minor, in which Selby rejoined the quartet for a very different piece, and one with personal meaning for the musicians, which shone through in their interpretation. The piece was a mini-masterclass in diverse styles, a crunchy third-movement scherzo giving way to a spare, melancholy lento, in turn yielding to the martial and almost filmic allegretto.

Consistent and well-earned applause brought the players back for an encore of the famous second movement from Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2, a much-loved work beautifully performed. 

I am sorry that I won’t ever get to see the Goldner Quartet again, but this was a wonderful closing act for this stellar ensemble.

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