Angella Ahn picked up the violin as a child after watching an orchestra’s violin section and admiring how it selfishly dominated the melody. While she still plays violin, Angella now shares the melody with her twin sisters Lucia and Maria on piano and cello, respectively.
The three sisters of the Ahn Trio will perform at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part of the Logan Chamber Music Series.
The Ahn Trio found its start when the sisters attended Juilliard together in the early 1980s and they began performing pieces by some of their composer peers. Although their Juilliard days are long gone, the sisters never stopped playing together.
Angella now lives in Bozeman, Montana, where she teaches at Montana State University, but her sisters remain in New York City — a place that continues to influence the music they perform.
Today, they will deliver an eclectic mix of selections loosely configured both around and in contrast to that New York vibe. The first half of the program features Kenji Bunch’s “Swing Shift,” a piece depicting various aspects of the night shift in the city. One movement calls upon the sisters to become a jazz trio. The final movement, titled “Grooveboxes,” features the trio as it mimics the sound of a disc jockey spinning without any of the actual equipment.
“[Bunch] is making all the sounds and rhythms and layering with just acoustic instruments,” Angella said.
To balance the distinct New York feel, the trio will also perform music from Latin America, particularly Argentina. The second half will feature covers of the sisters’ favorite rock music, including David Bowie and Prince.
Over the years, the Ahn Trio has been pegged as a champion for new music, which is true, but Angella said that was entirely unintentional. It was merely how things evolved coming of age as musicians in New York. The Ahn Trio was never destined to be the type of chamber ensemble that cycles through a set of standards year in and year out.
“Part of it is living in New York, where it’s almost impossible to stick to one thing,” Angella said. “I think another part of it also is once you get all of these incredible composers writing for you, it’s kind of hard to go back.”
She also said new material provides an opportunity to be on the cutting edge of music history.
“If you look at music by Mozart or music by Brahms, at one point, that was the current music,” she said. “I think the other part of it is that there’s something amazing about how we’re playing the music of our time, and, in 100 years or 200 years, it will be the old music.”
Other than cutting-edge music, the Ahn sisters have been featured in Vogue, GQ and People Magazine as rising stars and fashion icons, which Angella said is curious because she and her sisters don’t feel they are particularly glamorous people — it’s the music, she said, that deserves the attention. According to Angella, the magazine coverage was most helpful in connecting their work with a wider audience.
“We thought classical music is very edgy and beautiful and very cool, and if people were exposed to it they’d love it,” she said.
As for spending this much time with her sisters, Angella said, on the whole, it’s great. They fight “like any group,” she said, but there’s something about being sisters that always forces them to forgive each other.
“It’s incredible to make music with your family — people you are so close to, people you trust 100 percent,” she said.