CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Ahn Trio, National Museum of Women in the Arts

Ahn Trio, photo by Jean-Bernard VillarealThe Ahn Trio are three sisters, originally from Korea, who graduated from Juilliard. Their performance last night at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the conclusion of this year's three-concert Shenson Chamber Music Concert Series, was a lightweight 80 minutes of mostly popular music. This concert was a collection of pleasant sounds that left my brain mostly undernourished. There is no need here to rehash my thoughts about the crossover phenomenon, only to refer you to my review of the Turtle Island String Quartet in March. The Ahn Trio thrives on the same concept, in fact opening with a piece by the Turtle Island's first violinist, David Balakrishnan (Tremors), and closing with a piece first recorded by the Turtles, Katrina Wreede's Mr. Twitty's Chair. What do the Ahn sisters have over the Turtle Island String Quartet? People Magazine included them in their issue of the 50 most beautiful people. And with good reason. However, of dubious worth as a recommendation for listening.

Other Reviews:

Daniel Ginsberg, Ahn Trio (Washington Post, May 5)

Stephen Brookes, The Ahn Trio: Girls Gone Mild (, May 4)
Much of the concert's first half was devoted to a suite by Juilliard graduate Kenji Bunch, a Young Concert Artists composer-in-residence and a friend of the Ahn sisters. Swing Shift: Music for Evening Hour (2002) sounds like minimalism crossed with jazz and rock beats. Bunch dedicated the work, a portrait of New York nightlife, to businesses that stay open in the city 24 hours a day. Bunch's style is very repetitive: he must use the cut and paste function a lot in his Sibelius or Finale program. Often a measure is repeated, exactly, four times. I found the piece stultifying, only as something on which one is expected to concentrate in silence. If I had a drink in hand and a friend to chat with, it would fit quite pleasantly into the background.

Ahn Trio, National Museum of Women in the Arts, May 3, 2006Most of the program seemed a waste of the talent of the Ahn Trio, toss-off pablum that makes cute encores or party favors but left me musically starving. There was some interest in the arrangement of Chick Corea's Addendum, a nice and irregular tune. (Of course, anyone in their right mind would have preferred to hear Chick Corea himself, who was playing the very same evening at Blues Alley.) Kenji Bunch's tango arrangement of My Funny Valentine by Richard Rodgers -- whose daughter, composer Mary Rodger Guettel, happened to be the Chairman of Juilliard's Board of Trustees when the Ahns were there -- was charming enough. Michal Rataj's arrangement of Riders on the Storm -- yes, the 1971 song by Jim Morrison and The Doors -- featured storm sounds generated by Lucia Ahn gently thumping the piano strings with a tennis ball. Kenji Bunch's Whispers: Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac is a short movement, monotonous, of soft, dreamy glissandi on the strings, again with plenty of repetition.

The best work on the program was the encore, a steamy, nostalgic arrangement of Oblivion, a song by the Argentinian bandoneon player and composer Astor Piazzolla. All of the arrangements played by the Ahn Trio are interesting music, but I am not sure that I need to hear them played by a classical string trio, especially a group like the Ahn Trio, who did not sound in best form either. Perhaps cello mistunings, scratchy tone, clumsy violin harmonics are part of joining classical music with popular. Some may be willing to excuse the Ahn Trio's indulgences because they are "Beautiful People." By and large, this music -- not all that technically challenging or of sufficient musical interest to warrant concentrating solely on it in a recital hall -- left me unsatisfied.


jfl said...

1.) I need some hi-res photos to fact-check some of your claims.

2.) were they included in "50 Most Beautiful People" as three consecutive entries? Or three separate entries (and was there a cat-fight between the higher and lower ranked siblings? And if so, is there a video of that? Or are the three "one", singular 'people'?

Which raises different, more interesting, less exciting questions.

Charles T. Downey said...

I'll get to work on those photos. As for how they were listed, I have no idea. ;-)

Contrabaixista said...

Pity these girls. One day they will come to their senses and realize they've spent their lives whoring for the dark side of crossover.

Anonymous said...

Definitely read Daniel Ginsberg's take-down: It's so refreshing to have someone (with a spine) write truthful and honestly for the Post. (Not that others don't... ermm...)