She means it as a joke, but if violinist Angella Ahn had her way, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock would put her on the state’s tourism board.
When she’s not jet-setting around the world performing with her sisters Maria (cello) and Lucia (piano) as part of the Ahn Trio, Ahn calls Bozeman, home, and she has no trouble singing the city’s praises.
“I travel the world and rave about Bozeman, Montana,” she said with a laugh from her office on campus. “I ended up here, and it’s an incredible place to live.”
The Ahn sisters were born in South Korea and grew up in New York City, where Maria and Lucia still live. They studied at the Juilliard School, but for the past eight years, Ahn has worked as a professor of violin and viola at Montana State University.
Ahn didn’t think much about teaching when she and her sisters began performing more than 20 years ago, though she noted the two tend to go hand in hand.
“You learn to teach as you perform and as you perform, you learn to teach,” she said.
But after years on the road, Ahn realized she wasn’t interested in traveling full-time and craved a “dual life” as a musician and professor.
Since living in Bozeman, Ahn has noticed changes in herself as a person and a musician.
“When you have space, you have room to grow,” she said. “It’s so interesting because now I feel like when I see my sisters, which is still quite a bit, it’s going from all of us having that New York energy to one of us being a little more relaxed.”
Ahn will reunite with Maria and pianist Azusa Hokugo, who is filling in for Lucia, when the Ahn Trio performs with the Spokane Symphony in “Vienna, City of Dreams,” Saturday and Sunday at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.
The concert, conducted by music director Eckart Preu, features Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on the G String,” Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Eight Variations on “Du Lieber Augustin,” Mark O’Connor’s Triple Concerto, featuring the Ahn Trio, and Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, “The Great.”
Like much of the music they play, Triple Concerto was written specifically for the Ahn Trio.
English composer Michael Nyman, jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny and the late French composer Maurice Jarre (“Doctor Zhivago,” “Lawrence of Arabia”) have all written for the trio.
“It’s such an incredible honor for us to have these incredible giants writing music for us,” Ahn said.
Ahn became friends with O’Connor after teaching at the camps he hosted for fiddle players; he wrote Triple Concerto for the Ahn Trio in 2010.
“What I love especially is that he’s able to have these different styles,” Ahn said. “He’s like the perfect chameleon in a violinist. He can fiddle, then he can play this beautiful swing and then he can do gypsy jazz and then he writes this incredible classical thing, so what I love about his music is exactly that. It surprises you because they’re so different.”
O’Connor based Triple Concerto on three of his favorite fiddle tunes.
Ahn described the first movement, “March of the Pharaohs,” as a broad, march-like, open piece.
She described the second movement, “Fiddler Go Home,” as a sweet, swing-y piece, and called the final movement “Gypsy Fantastic,” a gypsy, “fiddle-y” movement.
“The audiences that we have played them for seem to really love them, so I hope the Spokane audience will love it as well,” she said.
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