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A cool evening of Ahn Trio versatility

June 04, 2007|Richard S. Ginell | Special to The Times

The Ahn Trio continues to pursue its self-appointed mission of redefining what a piano trio ought to be doing: expanding the repertoire. And these three sisters have been at it since well before the release of "Ahn-Plugged" in 2000. They've been commissioning pieces from their Juilliard School chum Kenji Bunch for more than a decade.

So their appetite for new music is not some passing fancy, nor is their desire to shake up the chamber-music experience. They continue to provide concert-goers with printed programs of what they plan to do -- complete with program notes -- and then just take off on some other plan.

For the second half of their concert at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Friday night, there was the disclaimer "The Ahn sisters will make selections from the following list to be announced from the stage." But soon they departed from that list too. Perhaps, like rock groups, they should not announce anything in advance.

They did, however, play two of their announced pieces: newly minted compositions by Bunch and Paul Chihara. In "Danceband," Bunch tried to turn the siblings into just that, writing a series of pastiches on an eclectic collection of dance styles. The most arresting sections were a country reel, in which a prepared piano imitated the plunkings of a banjo, and something called "Disco Boogie," which thankfully avoided the expected idiotic beat in favor of a piano ostinato underneath swirling strings.

Chihara's "Orchids" was a low-key mixture of mild turbulence with gentle anguish and seduction; one recurring tune resembled that of Django Reinhardt's "Nuages." Each movement was named after one of the Ahns, with Maria's cello, Angella's violin and Lucia's piano featured prominently in their individual movements.

Joined after intermission by percussionist Christopher Garcia, the Ahns sailed through a pair of atmospheric Asian- and Indian-influenced pieces ("Lullaby" and "Day Loves Night," respectively) by jazz guitarist Nguyen Le; Michal Rataj's nearly literal transcription of the Doors' "Riders on the Storm"; and their own arrangements of a couple of sentimental Astor Piazzolla selections, "Oblivion" and "Primavera" (from "The Four Seasons").

The Ahns' wardrobe for the concert was unusually muted but understandably so. It was a chilly night, as Angella Ahn kept reminding us while we froze.

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