Chamber music played in the comfort of a village home

The Montagnana Trio are Kate Elmitt (pianist), Catherine Wilmers (cellist) and Emma Halnan (flautist) who were May's guest musicians in The Windmill Studio Concert series.
The Montagnana Trio are Kate Elmitt (pianist), Catherine Wilmers (cellist) and Emma Halnan (flautist) who were May's guest musicians in The Windmill Studio Concert series.

CONCERT REVIEW: The Montagnana Trio, Windmill Studio Concert Series, Swineshead

A pianist who gave her first radio broadcast aged 12, an ex-member of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and a former winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year woodwind category starred in Swineshead on Friday.

The Montagnana Trio, Kate Elmitt (piano), Catherine Wilmers (cello) and Emma Halnan (flute), took their audience on a musical journey which included composers from Austria, Brazil, France and Germany.

Four of the five pieces allowed the trio to share the united sounds made together by three different members of the orchestral family, strings (cello), woodwind (flute) and piano (percussion).

The exception was Assobio a Jato (The Jet Whistle), composed by Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos and played by Catherine and Emma alone.

A more familiar name in chamber music opened the concert in Austrian Joseph Haydn’s Trio XV:16 in D major, before the three musicians flourished with German composer Friedrich Kuhlau’s Trio Concertant in G.

I love being close to an audience because you can really talk to them, get them to react and have them on your side

Kate Elmitt, The Montagnana Trio

Jean-Marie Leclair’s Sonate a trios began the second half of the concert which ended with the high-energy Trio in D minor Op.11 by Fanny Hensel, better known as the sister of Felix Mendolssohn.

After the concert, Kate said: “I love being close to an audience because you can really talk to them, get them to react and have them on your side.”

Catherine added: “It’s also nice to change the dynamics of a recital to make it more interesting for the audience.

“We organised a rehearsal together where we tried different options for the recital and sorted out what worked well.”

Kate was brought up in a family of musicians and at the age of four, she faced a choice between having ballet and piano lessons.

“I was very fortunate to have a musical family who supported me, even though we were very hard up,” Kate said.

“But I had two siblings who also played instruments, along with my mother and father who were always there for me when I needed help.”

All three musicians studied at the Royal Academy of Music, like their host and organiser of the Windmill Studio Concert series, Bettina Houlder.

Catherine went on to play in the London Philharmonic Orchestra for 25 years, ten of them as principal cellist, where highlights included recordings of Lord of the Rings, Monteverdi’s Ulysses at Glyndebourne and Porgy and Bess under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.

Catherine said: “I remember one morning when I was in mid-rehearsal with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and I got a message to go and see (Hungarian composer) Sir Georg Solti.

“I thought I’d done something quite ghastly, but in fact Sir Georg asked me to teach his daughter to play the cello.

“I can only think it was becuase I was the only female cellist in the orchestra or Sir Georg may have seen something in the way I played and thought there was a probably a trust I could established with him and his daughter.”

Emma captured the music world’s attention with her accomplished performances during the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2010.

She went on to win the Sir Karl Jenkins/Arts Club Classical Music Award 2016, in association with Classic FM, for which she will record and play a piece specially composed for her by Sir Karl.

Emma said: “The BBC Young Musician of the Year competition just catapulted my career forward and everyone knows who you are.

“You get recognised and everything leads to something else.

“I definitely would be in a completely different place if I hadn’t have done it, but it doesn’t make you a better musician.”

The Montagnana Trio are the latest musicians to perform as part of the Windmill Studio Concert which is now in its 50th year.

Catherine said: “It’s so wonderful that Bettina organises these concerts in a place where there’s not a lot going on in terms of classical music.”

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Review and interview by Winston Brown