Ahn Trio strives to make classical magical for all ages

The Ahn Trio might very well be unique in the history of chamber music.

They are sisters -- born in Seoul, South Korea -- who are not only gifted musically, they're alumnae of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful" list.

Devoted to making the concert experience magical for all ages by "dissolving barriers" musically, socially and stylistically, the Ahn Trio has built quite the following -- including a few folks at the White House -- since all three graduated with master's degrees from the Juilliard School in New York more than 15 years ago.

From older dyed-in-the-wool traditional classical music fans, "to young couples with kids, to college students and everyone in between," is how violinist Angella Ahn describes a typical audience for their music, which is anything but typical.

Theirs is a reputation for performing classical music from the recent past and collaborating with contemporary composers and artists -- from rock 'n' rollers to jazz greats to dancers.

When the trio comes to Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts -- Sunday, Dec. 4 -- it will be with a program that focuses entirely on pieces that have been written specifically for the trio or works transcribed to their particular specifications.

"We're very stubborn about what we want to say" through music, said Angella Ahn is a recent chat from her home in Bozeman, Mont.

And that message is: "We want music ...not to be about being elitist or always serious. Music is all about emotion ... about conveying beauty or energy or sadness. It's all about communication," she noted.

As part of the university's "Classical Impression" series, Sunday's concert will feature twin sisters Lucia, on piano, and Maria, on cello, who both live in New York City; and "baby sister" Angella (who is two years younger). All fell in love with music as youngsters, moving to the United States to further their studies as pre-teens.

On the program are such works as "Yu Ryung," composed by Pat Metheny; "Paisagens Brasileiras" Suite (Brazilian Landscape) for Piano Trio," by Nelson Ayres; "Dies Irie," by violinist/composer Kenji Bunch, and "danceband," also by Bunch; "Tremors" and "Skylife," by David Balakrishnan; and "Oblivion," an instrumental version of a song written for the movie "Henry IV," by Astor Piazzolla.

Most of the works are from the trio's sixth and latest CD, "Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac" (released by Sony in 2008), which spent 26 weeks on Billboard's Classical Album charts, climbing to No. 8.

In more than 15 years of touring, the Ahns have performed in all 50 states and in more than 30 countries at such venues as Vienna's Musikverein, New York's Lincoln Center, Leipzig's Gewandhaus, Beijing's Concert Hall, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and Istanbul's Aya Irini in Topkapi Palace.

The most memorable venue, however, is a recent entry on their list.

"I wouldn't characterize it as a Top 10 experience. It's a Top 1," she said, laughing.

And that Top 1 occurred a few weeks ago, when the sisters performed in Washington, D.C. -- at a White House State Dinner for the presidents and first ladies of the United States and South Korea.

And the invitation also included dinner for the three, who "have always been very close.

"I can't even put into words what it was like ... absolutely tremendous ... such an incredible honor to be part of this event. I think what stands out in my mind is how warm, smart and amazingly kind everyone was, giving us hugs and thanking us for being there. I'm a huge fan of this administration" -- which significantly magnified the thrill, she added.

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