Ahn Trio life and biography

Ahn Trio picture, image, poster

Ahn Trio biography

Date of birth : -
Date of death : -
Birthplace : New York City,U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-04-04
Credited as : Music trio, classical piano trio, Lullaby For My Favorite Insomniac

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The Ahn Trio is a classical piano trio composed of three sisters: Angella (violin), Lucia (piano) and Maria (cello). Lucia and Maria are twins. Born in Seoul, Korea, they moved to New York City in 1981 and began their training at the Juilliard School. The sisters decided to form a trio while they were earning their master's degrees at Juilliard. The Ahn Trio are known for their performance of new classical music, genre-crossing programming, and collaborations with other artists.

The sisters were born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to the United States in the early 1980s, where they enrolled in the Juilliard School in New York. Their classical training and their penchant for designer clothing such as Gaultier, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana have prompted many critics to categorize them with the similarly physically attractive and classically inclined Eroica Trio.

When the girls were young, the Ahns' father worked as a book publisher and their mother worked as a journalist. In an interview with the online magazine Yisei, the sisters discussed their upbringing by nontraditional Korean parents. "Our parents were extremely ... different," said Angella. Maria elaborated, "Our father always had this very modern idea of parents letting their children free.... Every school weekend we'd drop our books and go away to a weekend house or on a trip somewhere...." Angella added: "They made sure we saw and experienced different things and different places every weekend." The Ahn parents started piano lessons for all of their daughters, but it was Lucia who, at the age of seven, became serious about the instrument. At that time, Angella and Maria took up, respectively, the violin and cello. By 1979 the trio had begun to perform live and on Korean television. Their parents subsequently divorced, and the young women moved to the United States in 1981, enrolling in the pre-college music program at Juilliard. In 1987 the sisters were featured in a Time magazine article entitled "Asian-American Whiz Kids." One year later, the women were featured during NBC and PBS network coverage of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. In 1992 the trio won prizes at the Alliance Northeast Competition for Chamber Ensembles as well as at the Coleman Chamber Competition. Their physical beauty also helped them attract coverage in such publications as the New York Times, Vogue, GQ, and Town & Country.

The Ahn Trio's first recording, consisting of their interpretations of compositions by Maurice Ravel and Heitor Villa-Lobos, won them critical acclaim. Their follow-up on EMI Classics featured works by Josef Suk, Antonin Dvorak, and Dmitry Shostakovich, and won the sisters an ECHO Award in Germany, an honor comparable to a Grammy Award in the United States. "It was really a nice surprise," Maria told Cyberbuzz critic Alan Back. "I mean, you don't make albums and think, 'Oh, I'm going to win a prize.'"

In 1997 the Ahn sisters appeared on the MTV television series MTV Unplugged, where they supported Canadian rock singer Bryan Adams on acoustic reinterpretations of his greatest hits. The experience inspired their next release, Ahn-Plugged, a collection of musical pieces by such contemporary composers as Kenji Bunch, Leonard Bernstein, Eric Ewazen, and Astor Piazzolla. The Ahns commissioned the Ewazen and Bunch pieces, having studied music theory at Juilliard with Ewazen and counting Bunch among their former Juilliard classmates. The album also includes the composition "This Is Not America," which was composed by David Bowie with jazz pianist Lyle Mays and jazz guitarist Pat Metheny for Bowie's 1984 release Tonight. Ahn-Plugged also features "The Heart Asks Pleasure First," from Michael Nyman's film score for the Jane Campion film The Piano.

On the Ahn Trio's 2002 release, Groovebox, the sisters continued their exploration of contemporary classical and popular music composers. The song that the critics focused on most was the Doors' "Riders on the Storm." While finding that the Ahn Trio version was faithful to the original, MusicTAP critic John Nelson believed that the Ahn rendition was "perhaps a little too true [to the original] for me. I 'get it' after twenty seconds. In and of itself, the playing is solid if not remarkable.... In the final analysis, it is a perfectly acceptable rendering of the song, but that's all it is." On this recording the group once again tackled film music, adapting Michael Nyman's "Come unto These Yellow Sands" from the film Prospero's Books. The album also features a piece composed by Maurice Jarre especially for the Ahn Trio. Entitled "The Engadiner Suite," the composition was inspired by Jarre's visit to the Engadine Valley in Switzerland. Groovebox also includes "Milonga del Angel," which was composed by Piazzolla; "Swing Shift," a suite composed by Bunch; and "Lullaby," a composition by another former Juilliard acquaintance, Ronn Yedidia.

Responding to assumptions that the Ahn Trio's blending of their instrumental prowess relies on the fact that they are sisters rather than merely accomplished musicians, Montgomery County News critic Doc Fennessy disagreed: "One might expect the three sisters have an uncanny sense of ensemble. What's surprising is how different their musical personalities also appear. Lucia, the pianist, is a lively extrovert whose entire body sometimes leaps off the bench as she attacks the keyboard. Maria, the cellist, is a more contemplative and soulful player with a dark, smoky cello sound that is the hardest of the three instruments to hear. Violinist Angella is the natural leader, not only musically but also in discussing the music with the audience."

In 2003 the Ahn sisters continued to expand their repertoire to include new music composed especially for them. In February of 2003 they premiered a piece by Paul Schoenfeld entitled "Four Music Videos," which he was inspired to write after seeing the Ahn Trio perform on MTV. Their tour schedule requires them to perform more than 100 dates a year, a schedule that they consider part of their mission to increase the popularity of classical music among younger audiences. According to Fennessy: "The Ahn Trio gives classical a new face and is part of the second wave of all-female ensembles. They are undeniably beautiful. They are sexy and wear fashion like they were born to stroll the runways of Paris. Unquestionably, their beauty, passion and vitality has them in high demand.

Their music lives on both in the concert halls and the numerous classes and workshops they conduct. This trio is injecting a new kind of 'spirit' into an art form sometimes regarded as stuffy." In addition to performing, the sisters conduct classes at the Maple Mount music academy in Kentucky, as well as conducting public school clinics in cities where they perform as part of the Lincoln Center Institute Program. They have also provided chamber backup for such performers as Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Bolton, Paul McCartney, and Vanessa-Mae.

Their latest album, Lullaby For My Favorite Insomniac, features collaborations with vocalists Susie Suh and Ema Brabcová and with DJs Tao of Sound, DJ Spooky, Superdrive, and Ra.D. for four remix tracks on the album.

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