COMPOSERS: Bernstein,Bunch,Ewazen & Bowie/Metheny,Nyman,Piazzolla
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Ahn-Plugged
PERFORMER: Ahn Trio; Matthew Gold, Brian Resnick (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57022 2
The players of the Ahn Trio may dress like a girl band, but they play with the well-manicured precision of A-grade conservatory-trained classical musicians. It isn’t all technique, either: they can be expressive too – as their recent recordings of the Ravel and Shostakovich piano trios have shown. They sound absolutely at home in Michael Nyman’s ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure First’ (from his chart-storming score for Jane Campion’s The Piano) and Kenji Bunch’s sweetly moody Slow Dance. Astor Piazzolla’s two Latin dance-based pieces, Oblivion and Primavera porteña, come across as slick and stylish – if a little sanitised. It’s hard to imagine a more dedicated performance of Leonard Bernstein’s early Piano Trio – the Ahn makes sure we’re aware of every flicker of youthful promise.
Heard live, the Ahn Trio may well have the barrier-breaking communicative power of the Kronos Quartet – the reviews suggest it does. But listening to this CD I can’t help noticing a kind of inner reticence. The surface is superb, but where’s the heart? The lack is actually most noticeable in the rock-based pieces: the arrangement of David Bowie and Pat Metheny’s ‘This is Not America’, or Eric Ewazen’s nostalgic tribute to the age of the Fab Four, ‘The Diamond World’ – pop tunes forced into DJs and whalebone corsets, sapped of all their raw vitality. Perhaps more up-front recordings might have helped. Hard to say, but to me this sounds like another group of classical musicians trying to show they can be cool, too – and proving that a miss really is as good as a mile. Stephen Johnson