Fono Forum, Clemens Haustein
“From a Tender Age” indeed: Shostakovich was 17 years old when he wrote his refined and melancholic piano trio nr. 1, Rachmaninoff was 18 when he composed his mournful Trio Elegiaque and Mahler wrote his remarkably painful piano quartet when he was just 16 years old. Teenage music indeed, however, in each case, it is full of artistic maturity and much more.
The music is characterized by an emotional vulnerability which is extremely well portrayed by Monte Piano Trio.
Within a short time since their formation at the Musikhochschule in Frankfurt, the trio has reached the front row level in their field with their profound, refined and highly structured way of playing. With their energetic yet analytical approach, they succeed in creating an admirable balance which is why the youthful fragility of the pieces is safe in their hands. Their interpretation is neither overly sentimental nor is it ever overpowering or superficial. Monte Piano Trio leaves the space for the emotions and feelings of the composers to come through the way they deserve: the unprecedented tenderness and reverie of Shostakovich, the lyrical melancholy of Rachmaninoff, the gloom and sparkle of „Deux Pieces en Trio“ that Lili Boulanger wrote just before her untimely death. The pieces are presented in such a loving and varied way that they are not merely works “from a tender age” but, above all, a wonderfully tender and searching musical experience.
This is a fascinating disc that presents us with five highly original works from five composers who, at the time of writing, were developing their art. Each of these pieces is an indicator of what was to come, apart from those by Lili Boulanger whose tragic death aged only 24 from Crohn’s disease robbed the world of a prodigious musical talent.
As a Shostakovich ‘nut’ I was delighted to hear his Piano Trio No.1 since I had never heard it before. Don’t ask me how it could have slipped past my radar because I am at a loss to know the answer when I own all the symphonies, concertos, string quartets, piano sonatas, operas and film music. There have been plenty of recordings of it as I now discover. It was no surprise to read that the trio was originally entitled Poème and that it was inspired and dedicated to Tatyana Glivenko, a first love. It contains the sweetest of tunes which is full of longing. As such it is steeped in a romanticism which Shostakovich would later repudiate although such writing would recur at times in other of his compositions. It is an extremely mature sounding work to have been composed at the age of 17.
Trio Élégiaque on the other hand is by Rachmaninov who was unashamedly romantic and isn’t that what we all love about his music? This was composed just after he had completed his piano studies with distinction aged 18 and is what we expect from this quintessentially soulful composer. The booklet notes speak of there being “a grain of truth” in what is described as the cliché concerning ‘Russian soul’; I would say that there is more a grain silo full of truth in that concept. It is evident in too many works by Russian composers for it to be coincidental.
Mahler’s Piano Quartet was composed between the ages of 16 and 18 and is another pointer towards the great music that was to come from his pen. Again dripping with romanticism it is full of the pain of adolescence and uncertainty about how the future will evolve.
Reading that Lili Boulanger was aware of how little time she had makes her music all the more poignant and no doubt increased her resolve to leave her musical thoughts in as many compositions as time would allow. The first of these short trio movements is achingly sad while the second is a complete contrast and the booklet notes write of them as though they were written in the reverse order to how they are played here. Given that Lili Boulanger died so soon after their composition it would seem more appropriate to play them so that the saddest movement comes last. Everything I have ever heard by her I have found totally satisfying and these two pieces are certainly no exception.
John Ireland is still far less well known than he deserves to be even though this piano trio won him second prize in a competition that had 67 works submitted to it. It was no less a composer than Frank Bridge who pipped him to the post; he won first prize in the same competition the following year when 133 works were put forward. This Phantasie Trio in A minor shows a young composer who has already learned a lot from the musical traditions of Germany and Europe in general. This is something that would be honed and perfected down the years largely unaltered; Ireland was not seduced by twelve tone trends or other avant-garde experimentation. This trio points the way his music was to take — always full of rich harmonies and lovely tunes.
The Monte Piano Trio brings freshness to these works and Daniel Rowland is a fine addition for the Mahler quartet and the disc is warmly welcomed.
Pizzicato, Remy Franck
The energy and fervour with which the musicians of Monte Piano Trio ( violinist Francesco Sica, cellist Claude Frochaux and pianist Irina Botan) tackled Shostakovich Trio no 1 op 8 is thrilling. The trio is able to create tremendous contrasts – the interpretation is characterized by explosive playing followed by elegiac passages expressed in a magical way.
The next track features Rachmaninoff`s Trio Elegiaque which displays a noble sound quality and a very emotional rendition, which is followed by the passionate piano quartet by Gustav Mahler, performed together with Daniel Rowland with a lot of energy.
Nadia Boulanger´s 2 Pieces En Trio are, like the other works in this programme an early work, which begins with D´Un Soir Triste which is sad and sinister, but also very cantabile. In contrast the next Track D´un Matin de Printemps is very cheerful and sounds elated in the sparkly and light interpretation of the cohesive and strong Monte Piano Trio
The British composer John Ireland wrote his Fantasy Trio in e minor when he was 27 years old. It is a charming work, sometimes very reflective and full of extraordinary melodic richness.
In their programme of early works by composers from various countries, the very cohesive Monte Piano Trio shows a deep understanding of the music, as well as a well defined characterisation of each piece.
“Monte Piano Trio’s interpretation was very lyrical, passionate and, very importantly, their approach was very detailed and true to the score, with wonderful phrasing and a diverse colour pallet and a particular care for all the musical parameters”
Rondo Magazine, Michael Wersin
We did not think that Rachmaninoff´s Trio Elegiaque can begin so softly. The CD player is running, seconds go by and just as one begins to think there is an error, delicate string sounds begin to disolve directly from the silence… an effect which is representative of the special atmosphere of this CD. From the silence of forgotten music immerse two trio pieces by Lili Boulanger and the Fantasy Trio by John Ireland; even Mahler´s piano quartet has not been widely performed………
All the pieces gathered here originated in the “ tender age“ of their composers and they show the spirit of change which is present in each work, in its own individual style.
Perhaps the veil of melancholy which is perceived throughout the CD is a projection of the composers´ future lives. It perhaps testifies to an early premonition of the artistic consciousness of these masters who were able to acknowledge and embrace a troubled future.
The outstanding musicians of Monte Piano Trio capture in an extraordinary way the soul of these wonderful pieces; they delight their listeners with insightful, vivid and highly structured interpretations which also exhibit a perfect technical mastery.
Long live chamber music!