Trio Voronezh serves diverse menu

It certainly wasn't a sell-out crowd that turned out for Friday's Trio Voronezh performance at the Lied Center, but the modest audience size was refreshingly appropriate for the intimate delivery of the Russian folk trio.

Those fortunate enough to attend the show were rewarded with technically superb, emotionally charged renditions of pieces on a diverse program that hopscotched from the strictly classical stylings of Vivaldi and Mozart to the Latin flavor of Argentinean Astor Piazzolla to popular American tunes by Gershwin. Many of the songs were familiar: Mozart's "Turkish Rondo," Khachaturian's "Saber Dance," movements from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker." But they took on a whole new life in the hands of Trio Voronezh.

The obvious difference: instrumentation. No violins, cellos or pianos here. The trio consists of Vladimir Volokhin on domra, a three-stringed, shortnecked ancestor of the mandolin; Sergei Teleshev on bajan, a chromatic-button accordion with various registers; and Valerie Petruchin on double-bass balalaika, the three-stringed, Russian national instrument that has a triangular body made of fir.

The threesome managed to exude the sound and energy of an ensemble at least twice its size. They expertly ripped out a demanding Shostakovich piece intended for an entire symphony orchestra ("Burlesque").

Particularly stunning in the first half of the program was a polka from the Shostakovich ballet "The Bolt." The composition moved from whimsical to ominously dramatic through a series of accelerations and decelerations, crescendos and decrescendos, and showcased the trio's unity and personality.

The musicians showed versatility with their shift to a sultry, pulsing Piazzolla tango.

At intermission, the trio changed from concert black to shiny pastel shirts. The change jibed with the even more playful mood of the second half of the evening.

Continuing in its expressive style, the trio played richly textured traditional Jewish, Russian and Gypsy dances, repeatedly exhibiting incredible dynamic control and nimble fingers.

Petruchin on bass was a subtle but guiding force. Teleshev worked magic on the bajan. His ability to make one instrument sound like three or four playing simultaneously added richness to the ensemble. And Volokhin sizzled on the domra. His fingers moved at lightning speed, and his charisma evoked plenty of response from the audience.

It was hard to imagine these guys playing Bach in a Frankfurt, Germany, subway station, which is where the classically trained musicians were first discovered in the early 1990s. Even more unbelievable was the impressive range of their repertoire and the fact that they delivered flawless performances of more than a dozen numbers without a single piece of sheet music.

The wildly talented members of Trio Voronezh are serious musicians who don't make the mistake of taking themselves too seriously. Those who passed on Friday's performance missed a rare treat.

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