Vanguard Concert Series presents Lincoln Trio at DAI
By Josher Lumpkin
Photo: The Lincoln Piano Trio will perform on May 23 at the Dayton Art Institute; photo: Marc Hauser
The Dayton Art Institute’s Vanguard Concert Series has an impressive history of providing live chamber music in an intimate setting for over 52 years. In this time, there have been over 250 performances for fans of the genre.
On Friday, May 24, the Vanguard Series rounds out its 2013-2014 season with the Lincoln Trio, an awesome, high-energy group of talented young musicians from Chicago. Comprised of violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, cellist David Cunliffe and pianist Marta Aznavoorian, the trio will perform in Dayton for the first time.
Named for the state they call home – Illinois, the “Land of Lincoln” – The Lincoln Trio has had an impressive career of noteworthy performances. In 2009, they were chosen to perform for President Barack Obama as part of the Springfield, Ill. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial celebration.
Individually, each member of the Lincoln Trio has had their own exceptional career. Ruhstrat has performed live with the Berlin Orchestra for a live radio broadcast heard internationally and was invited to the White House to play for former President Ronald Reagan. David Cunliffe has toured the world, performing live on radio and television, including NPR and BBC broadcasts. Marta Aznavoorian has also travelled the world playing music, and has been named a presidential scholar by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.
Collectively, The Lincoln Trio has been lauded critically by connoisseurs of chamber music far and wide. In 2013, they were invited to perform as part of James Whitbourn’s choral work Annelies, based on the life of Anne Frank, the album of which received a Grammy nod for Best Choral Performance.
The Lincoln Trio is known for their ability to play the classics, as well as contemporary works. Though they often perform pieces composed by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky, they are quite often commissioned to play works by modern composers.
In fact, one of the Lincoln Trio’s recent commissions was by the Korean Sejong Cultural Society to perform works based on Korean themes, an unlikely assignment which showcases the trio’s appreciation for diversity in classical music. The Lincoln Trio is currently the ensemble-in-residence at the Merit School of Music in Chicago.
Violinist Desirée Ruhstrat recently took time out from the Lincoln Trio’s rigorous performance schedule to answer a few of my questions.
How long has the trio been playing together, and how did you meet?
This will be our eleventh year! David and I are married and we were formed by Frank Little, the former president of the Music Institute of Chicago. He knew each of us individually and said, “I think you all should play a concert together.” We did, and the rest is history. He also happened to give us the name Lincoln Trio. Most groups form and name themselves, but we were put together, which is very unique. – Desirée Ruhstrat
What is your favorite type of venue to play? Is there somewhere the Trio has performed in the past that really stood out over other venues?
Both have their advantages. A small venue is more intimate and you feel a wonderful connection with the audience so close, like they are truly a part of the performance. On the other hand, the energy a large audience can have is also very exciting! Just last weekend, we played in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, which was an incredible experience. – DR
You have performed all over the world. Do any of you have families at home?
Marta, our pianist, has three kids at home. It’s not easy to balance. – DR
The three of you put a massive amount of energy into your performances. Do you find you are exhausted after performing? Is it difficult to do multiple days in a row?
We all enjoy performing and each concert has its own unique energy, from the repertoire to the venue and the audience. Yes, it can be exhausting, but it is also such a thrill for us. – DR
As young chamber musicians, do you find the older set is more approving or disapproving? For example, do older, perhaps more established, musicians ever scoff at your choice to perform contemporary compositions?
We have been lucky and have had incredible support. Our trio, from our inception, has made its mission to feature one work by a contemporary composer on every performance. Our first CD was Notable Women, which championed five of the top living female composers. – DR
What can your Dayton audience expect at the concert on May 23?
We are excited to play a composition from our upcoming CD, a trio by the composer Turina, a wonderful Spanish composer writing great chamber music at the beginning of the 20th Century. – DR
The Lincoln Trio will perform as part of the Vanguard Concert Series at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 23 at the Dayton Art Institute’s NCR Renaissance Auditorium, 456 Belmont Park N. Tickets are $20 in advance for adults, $15 for students. For more information, please visit LincolnTrio.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at josherlumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.