Australian Book Review, Ian Dickson

If one were to ask the average classical music lover to guess where, in the space of three weeks, she could hear orchestras of the calibre of the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Dresden Staatskapelle, and the Royal Concertgebouw, and artists of the eminence of Joyce Di Donato, Yuja Wang, Evgeny Kissin, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Iestin Davies, Bryn Terfel, Gidon Kramer, Midori, and Mitsuko Uchida, and if one could explain to her that that formidable list only barely scratched the surface of what was available to be experienced, the chances are she would plump for the Proms, followed perhaps by Salzburg or Edinburgh. She would be unlikely to guess the Enescu Music Festival in Bucharest for the simple reason that she would probably be completely unaware of its existence.

And yet the Enescu Festival, named after Romania’s pre-eminent composer, George Enescu, has been in existence since 1958. Like most artistic institutions, it has had its ups and downs, but at the moment – in the capable hands of artistic director Vladimir Jurowski and the suave Mihai Constantinescu, who has been its CEO for thirty years and has survived thirty ministers of culture – it is one of the wonders of the musical world.

The successes … were far too many to list here, so what follows is a highlight of the highlights of the first half of the festival, which is all this writer managed to attend.

It is one of the great pleasures of occasions like this to come into contact with excellent performers of whom one has never heard, to go to a concert or a recital with no great expectations and come out on a high. The young group the Monte Piano Trio provided such an experience.

They made a good case for Enescu’s second piano trio and Serenade Lointaine, but it was their performance of Steuermann’s transcription of Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht that blew this listener away.

Covering the old and the new, keeping in touch with tradition while looking to the future, the Enescu Festival is an extraordinary celebration of the power of music.

MusicWeb International, Stuart Sillitoe

As the booklet points out, it is not that long ago that a disc featuring three women composers would have been met with derision and claims of a feminist agenda. Thank heavens times are a-changing. This disc presents three piano trios which can now be seen for their merits alone, and not just as a fad or a curio. These are works that not only present composers who are women, but composers who are shining examples in their fields and generations. The disc is entitled Triptych. This is not only a reference to Natalie Klouda’s piece, but also the three women, to the centuries when they were active, and the styles they adopted.

The disc opens with the rippling piano of the opening movement of Amy Beach’s Piano Trio in A minor … It is a late-romantic masterpiece of the genre in its own right, a relatively late work by a composer at the peak of her artistic output … This is a model of late romanticism and one to be enjoyed by all.

The pivotal work on this disc is the trio by the young British composer Natalie Klouda. It was commissioned for a concert series given in 2014 by the artists who perform it here. The concert featured music by both Clara and Robert Schumann, and by their friend Johannes Brahms. Klouda states that she took the three composers as inspiration for her own work, with the piano as the central aspect of each of the movements, just as it was the instrument of choice for the three composers … This is a fine work, one in which the thematic material is melodious and well developed, and one that sits well between the Beach and Clara Schumann. This seems to be the only work by Natalie Klouda available on the well-known online sites, but on this evidence, let us hope for more.

The Clara Schumann G minor Piano Trio is the best-known work here, and as such needs little introduction. It is strongly romantic and compares well with her contemporaries’ work. It could be argued that the writing, especially for the piano, is more developed and advanced than her husband Robert’s. Needless to say, it is often regarded as the finest piano trio by a woman, when in fact it should be regarded as one of the finest trios of the whole romantic period.

I have a number of recordings of this work; this performance is up with the best.

The Monte Piano Trio give strong and committed performances of all three works, showing their breadth of ability and ease of moving between the genres presented by the three composers. Their performances are well detailed and show a great sense of ensemble and understanding. The sound is excellent, as are the booklet notes—an excellent production all round.

The Sunday Times, Stephen Pettit

Three fine pieces by female composers. The American Amy Beach’s luscious 1938 A minor Trio, Op 50, shows Fauré’s influence, while in Natalie Klouda’s Fantasy Triptych (2014), her homage to Brahms and Robert and Clara Schumann, a frenetic finale follows two touchingly ruminative movements. Clara’s masterly Piano Trio, Op 17, crowns the programme.

The Monte Piano Trio play superbly, cleverly balancing transparency and richness. 

Bayerische Rundfunk Klassik, Leporello Programme – Susanne Schmerda

“Triptych, three piano trios which could not be more different, a cleverly programmed CD with almost completely unknown works, three composers from three nations and a journey spanning 170 years of music history.”

“… passionate and technically brilliant, always heart felt”

“what a high degree of temperament and joy the three musicians develop”

“… beautiful and elegant sound, emotionally gripping and extremely homogeneous”

“A piano chamber music album can hardly be more thrilling, more adorable and more beautiful!”

More about Triptych

The above was translated from the German:

“Triptych, drei Kalviertrios, die unterschiedlicher nicht sein könnten. Eine klug programmierte CD mit fast gänzlich unbekannten Werken. Drei Komponistinnen aus drei Nationen und eine Reise durch 170 Jahre Musikgeschichte.”

“…leidenschaftlich und technisch brillant, dabei immer beseelt.”
“Welch einen hohen Grad an Temperament und Spielfreude die drei entwickeln…”
“…tonschön und elegant, emotional packend und äußerst homogen.”
“Spannender, hinreißender und schöner kann ein Album mit Klavier-Kammermusik kaum sein!”

Sendung: “Leporello” am 15. Mai 2017, 16.05 Uhr auf BR-KLASSIK

SWR2 Radio, Jörg Lengersdorf
Triptych – Monte Piano Trio

“This is an outstanding trio with an elegant strings sound; the strings have a wonderful warm tone in this recording.”

“The entire CD exhibits all the qualities you look for in a group and it is an absolute “must buy” for piano chamber music lovers!”

SWR2 Radio in Germany, Jörg Lengersdorf reviewing the CD on the Cluster Programme – translated

Schwabische Zeitung, Babette Caesar

Three short words best describe the performance by the Monte Piano Trio on Friday evening at the Festhalle: “They are fantastic!”.

This experience was offered by the three exceptional musicians – violinist Francesco Sica, cellist Claude Frochaux and pianist Irina Botan –  who performed masterpieces by George Enescu, Dimitri Shostakovich and Antonin Dvorak under the title “Eastern Voices”. They belong to the ‘créme de la créme’ of young piano trios, showing a wide range of beautiful sound colours and unparalleled freshness.

“Furious” in the sense of “angry” and “wild” is how cellist Claude Frochaux described the fireworks of the Romanian composer George Enescu, particularly the first and fourth movements – the Allegro molto vivace and the presto. Enescu´s Piano Trio No. 1 in g minor begins with aplomb. He was only 16 years old when he completed this composition as part of his studies at the Paris Conservatoire with Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré. His classmate was Maurice Ravel. The work, which has only recently been rediscovered, is special for the trio, as Irina Botan also comes from Romania. One can hear a mature Enescu here, as well as the  influences of Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn.

The trio, which was founded at the Musikhochschule in Frankfurt am Main in 2008, was featured in the closing concert of this season´s Leutkircher Klassik series, and it was clear from the very beginning of the concert that this was going to be an exceptional experience. There were no moments of hesitation, with Irina Botan´s nterpretation of the rhythmical, tempo driven yet furious piano part being transformed into a dance like performance.

The work quickly changes mood and develops into a homogeneous, tightly interwoven body of sound. This compact mix of the three instruments reached such a high emotional tension that it made the audience hold its breath. Even in the narrative Andante one could hear lively and agile passages which were, never the less, incredibly tender. The Presto, on the other hand, was fiery and joyful, with the pianist clearly relishing her exciting part.

Before continuing with Dvorak’s famous trio in F minor op. 65, they performed Shostakovich´s Piano Trio No.1 in C minor op. 8, which he wrote while being a student at the Leningrad Conservatory when he was just 17 years old. He dedicated it to a youthful love which was never returned.

Accompanied by rapturous applause and an explosion of “Bravos”, they returned to the stage for the last piece in the programme – Dvorak’s Piano Trio in f minor, Op. 65, composed in 1883.

The trio brought both joy and melancholy, jubilation and drama, with an interpretation which was immeasurably convincing and clear. The scherzo in the second movement will remain memorable with the slavic dancing swing of Irina Botan`s piano playing. Each note is clearly defined and at the same time the homogeneous cohesion is not lost.

In the Adagio, Sica’s violin sung an almost painfully beautiful melody, before giving it all in the dramatic final movement of the trio.

Translation from review written in German