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Lincoln Trio celebrates anniversary at Nichols Concert Hall

The Lincoln Trio — Desiree Ruhstr(from left) David Cunliffe MartAznavoorian — will celebrate their 10th anniversary with concert Nichols Concert

The Lincoln Trio — Desiree Ruhstrat (from left), David Cunliffe and Marta Aznavoorian — will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a concert at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

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The LINCOLN TRIO

♦ 3 p.m. Sept. 23

♦ Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston

♦ Tickets, $10-$30

♦ (847) 905-1500, ext. 108; musicinst.org

Updated: September 19, 2012 5:52PM



Ten, 10 and 100.

When the Lincoln Trio opens the Music Institute of Chicago’s 2012-13 concert series on Sept. 23, it will begin a season-long celebration of an unusual convergence of anniversaries:

◆ the 10th anniversary of the Chicago-based ensemble’s establishment;

◆ the 10th anniversary of the concert series taking place in Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston;

◆ and the 100th anniversary of the 550-seat venue, which was originally the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

“It was the Music Institute that formed us and put us together and made us the Lincoln Trio,” said violinist Desiree Ruhstrat, “so we’re very excited to be kicking off the season.”

Although the 81-year-old school has presented concerts in one context or another since its establishment, it didn’t begin its current multifaceted performance series until 2003.

That’s the year that the school completed a renovation of the historic First Church at 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, converting it into a top-level concert space.

“Since then, it has served as the crown jewel of the organization, where we can feature our students, teach our students and engage with our community,” said Mark George, the institute’s president and chief executive officer.

Some 200 Institute-sponsored concerts, workshops and masterclasses take place each year in the space, and outside organizations and musicians rent it for dozens of other events.

“There isn’t a day during the year, with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s, when the hall is dark,” George said.

Noted architect Solon S. Beman, who was also responsible for several other major Chicago structures including the Fine Arts Building, at 410 S. Michigan, designed the 1912 church. The compact Greek Revival structure has an elegant, dignified interior infused with natural light. Performers and audiences praise its intimacy and embracing acoustics.

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine, one of the institute’s best-known alumni, likes the hall so much that she has recorded some of her albums there.

“It’s a really warm, beautiful acoustic, and I think it’s just a perfect size for chamber music,” Ruhstrat said. “And there aren’t so many spaces like that in Chicago.”

The Lincoln Trio, which was nominated earlier this year for a Grammy Award, serves as the Institute’s ensemble-in-residence and performs every year on the Nichols Hall performance series.

The program for its Sept. 23 concert will include Johannes Brahms’ Trio in C major, Op. 87, as well as student favorites by Paul Schoenfield and Astor Piazzolla.

Besides featuring some of the Institute’s top faculty such as the trio members, the series imports high-quality guest artists, focusing on soloists and chamber ensembles that fit well in the space.

“Primarily we are a teaching institution,” George said, “and we like to connect our performance series to our students as much as possible, because every student can attend these concerts for free.”

For this year’s 10th-anniversary season, the Music Institute was more ambitious than usual in its booking, stretching to engage, for example, Sergei Babayan. The famed Armenian-born pianist will perform Johann Sebastian’s Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” on April 21, 2013.

“In order to get an artist of that caliber in here,” George said, “we’ve collaborated with both Bach Week and the City of Evanston, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. That kind of collaboration is a little special for us.”

Other highlights include the Opus 10 Faculty Extravaganza on March 24, 2013, featuring 20 faculty pianists, and the Oct. 26-28, 2012, Billy Strayhorn Festival, which will pay homage to Duke Ellington’s indispensable collaborator.

“We’ve had jazz concerts before,” George said, “but this is bigger than anything we’ve ever done. It’s a whole weekend. It’s a lot of special guests.”

Three anniversaries and one exceptionally ambitious line-up — organizers hope it all adds up to the Music Institute’s most successful season yet.

Kyle MacMillan is a local free-lance writer.



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