Kathryn Selby’s fourth Selby & Friends tour for 2018,  Tormented Souls, saw the return of well-known Friends violinist Natalie Chee (Concertmaster of the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart but back home recently for concerts with the Australian World Orchestra, among others) and cellist Julian Smiles (of Goldner String Quartet and Australia Ensemble fame), in a concert of Beethoven, Schumann and Messiaen. This combination of musicians played Selby & Friends’  Proud Folk tour last year and once again they brought assured, masterful playing to City Recital Hall.

The forbidding opening to Beethoven’s  Kakadu variations – ten variations on a melody,  Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu, by Wenzel Müller, belies the lighter variations at the centre of the work. It has been proposed that Beethoven may have written the darker, more complex introduction and final variation when the work was published in 1816, rather than when he first penned the variations in his youth. If the opening tempo bordered on ponderous, the variations themselves tripped along merrily – Selby’s timbre at the piano bell-like against the polished strings. The canon between violin and cello was a particular highlight, as was the reverent, almost ceremonial  Adagio  espressivo ninth variation.

The trio followed Beethoven with Schumann – another tormented musician – and the third...