For its first ever concert in Santa Barbara, international chamber music group Z.E.N. Trio will play through a program showcasing works by Russian and Armenian composers soon to be featured on the ensemble’s next album. The latest performers featured in the UCSB Arts & Lectures series, the trio comprising of pianist Zhang Zuo, violinist Esther Yoo, and cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan will take the stage of The Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall on October 22.
Named after the first letters of its members’ names, Z.E.N. Trio formed in 2015 when the three musicians got selected by BBC Radio 3 as BBC New Generation Artists, a program that brings together young artists to record music for radio. In an interview with the News-Press, Ms. Yoo recalled her first meeting with Ms. Zuo and Mr. Hakhnazaryan as one of immediate chemistry, which five years on remains the “core strength” of the group. Although the three members perform as soloists for most of the year, they aren’t strangers to chamber music and immediately found it very easy to play together.
“Even though we’re all professionally soloists, we all have chamber music backgrounds…it’s part of our musical DNA,” she said.
Playing separately takes up much of its members’ time, but Z.E.N. Trio tries to do one big project per year, be it an album or concert tour. In 2017, the group released its debut recording “Brahms & Dvorak Piano Trios,” and sometime in 2020 will put out its currently untitled sophomore album. For the follow-up, Ms. Yoo and her bandmates have decided to center the album on Russian and Armenian composers, a theme arrived at in part because Mr. Hakhnazaryan is Armenian. The program for the trio’s October 22 concert will include “Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, op. 67” by 20th century Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich and “Piano Trio in F-sharp minor” by 20th century Armenian composer Arno Babajanian, both of which will be featured on the forthcoming album. Ms. Yoo particularly expressed excitement for performing and recording the latter, as Mr. Babajanain is a relatively obscure Armenian composer.
“It’s such a wonderful piece and we thought it should be recorded and heard,” she said of his piano trio.
The performance will also feature two songs that won’t be on the record. For the evening’s third song, the trio will play a rendition of the Russian romantic era piece “Vocalise” by Sergei Rachmaninorff, and will kick off the evening with “Notturno in E-flat Major, op. 148” by Franz Schubert. Though Mr. Schubert isn’t Russian or Armenian, Ms. Yoo explained the piece’s inclusion at the start of the program will begin the show with a calm, serene tone, which will build into a fiery intensity with the Russian and Armenian pieces.
“It’s very different from everything else in the concert,” she said. Zen Trio’s October 22 concert will begin at 7:00 p.m. at Hahn Hall, located at 1070 Fairway Rd. Tickets concert can be purchased online at www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu and cost $30 for the general public. UCSB Students with a current student ID can purchase tickets for $9.