Thursday, March 21, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Concert Review

Ahn Trio delights with blend of skill and sass

Seattle Times music critic

The Ahn Trio

International Chamber Series recital at Meany Theater; Tuesday night.
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It was an evening of "chamber music with attitude," which means that the Ahn Trio was back in town. A large and enthusiastic contingent of fans gathered at Meany Theater to hear the three dynamic Ahn sisters in a high-energy program that stretched from Haydn and John Musto to the Beatles.

What distinguishes the Ahns from the vast hordes of fine chamber ensembles out there is their ability to break down some of the traditional concert trappings that strike many potential concertgoers as forbidding and fussy. Yes, the Ahns play traditional chamber music; it'd be hard to find a more decorous, well-mannered performance of Haydn's Piano Trio in E-Flat Major than the one that opened Tuesday's Meany Theater program. But they also talk to the audience, and the atmosphere is so informal that the last half of the concert is announced from the stage.

Violinist Angella Ahn, with older twin sisters Lucia (piano) and Maria (cello), terms the unannounced section of the concert "Ahn-Plugged," a title that descends from the trio's appearances on MTV (they're also featured in Gap ads, adorable in their khakis). On Tuesday, the selections extended from an elegiac piece by Israeli composer Ronn Yedidia and the easy-listening "Diamond World" of Eric Ewazen to a Michael Nyman arrangement of his "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" (from the movie "The Piano").

Lucia Ahn drew thunder-like tones from the piano by rolling a tennis ball on the strings in an imaginative arrangement of The Doors' "Riders On the Storm"; Maria Ahn wove a sinuous, X-rated cello line in an impassioned Astor Piazzolla tango, and all three let their hair down in "Hey Jude."

No Ahn Trio concert would be complete without a fashion bulletin, so here goes. Body glitter, glittering eyeshadow, bejeweled jeans, beaded tops, flowing skirts of stripes and iridescent red; sandals in which Lucite, fur and jewels played prominent roles; flashes of bare midriff and bare back. It was an evening to make standard concert attire look like orthopedic oxfords by comparison.

And all this without cheapening the music or the quality of playing one iota. If the Ahns are the future of chamber music, it's a bright and heartening future.

Speaking of futures: The 2002-03 season for the International Chamber Series also was announced Tuesday, and the lineup includes Concertante, Marian Anderson String Quartet, Emerson String Quartet, Trio Fontenay, Quartetto di Venezia and St. Lawrence String Quartet.


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