Zhang Zuo, Esther Yoo, and Narek Hakhnazaryan met in 2015 as winners of the prestigious BBC New Generation Artists Scheme. The group’s first release on Deutsche Grammophon in 2017 paired two staples of the trio repertoire by Brahms and Dvořák, performed with a level of cohesion and maturity that belies the ensemble’s youthful inception. The Trio presents Franz Schubert’s idyllic Notturno in E-flat Major, D. 897, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Trio, No. 2, composed at the height of World War II. The lesser-known Piano Trio in F-sharp minor by 20th-century composer Arno Babajanian rounds out the program with a deft mix of Russian Neoclassical rhythmic drive, an almost Debussyan approach to harmony and tonal color, and strong currents of folk music from Babajanian’s native Armenia.
FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Notturno in E-flat Major, Op. 148, D. 897
ARNO BABAJANIAN (1921-83)
Piano Trio in F-sharp minor
DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-75)
Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67
The Z.E.N. Trio (pianist Zhang Zuo, violinist Esther Yoo, and cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan) met on the BBC New Generation Artists’ scheme in 2015 and have since performed concerts together for BBC radio as well as across the UK and elsewhere in Europe. While the trio’s name, “Z.E.N.” is an acronym for the three artists’ initials, it also represents the philosophy with which they approach chamber music making—the forgoing of the self for total togetherness.
An imaginative and electrifying performer, Zhang Zuo (“Zee Zee”) began her musical training in Germany at the age of five. Upon returning to her native China, she became one of the most sought after young artists in the nation, collaborating with leading Chinese orchestras with whom she retains a close link. From 2013 to 2015 she was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. In recent seasons, she has appeared with the BBC Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Cincinnati Symphony, among others. She has worked with leading conductors, including Paavo Järvi, Marin Alsop and Yan Pascal Tortelier and has appeared at festivals such as the BBC Proms and Ravinia Festival. She has also played solo recitals at notable venues around the world including the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Lincoln Center in New York, London’s Wigmore Hall and De Doelen in Rotterdam.
Esther Yoo first came to international attention in 2010 when, aged 16, she became the youngest prizewinner of the 10th International Sibelius Violin Competition. From 2014 to 2016 she was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, culminating in her BBC Proms debut. Esther plays regular return engagements with Philharmonia Orchestra at London's Royal Festival Hall as well as with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and has performed in tours across Asia and South America. She has worked with conductors such as Vladmir Ashkenazy, Sir Andrew Davis, Pablo Heras-Casado and Osmo Vänskä, and as a recitalist she has performed across Europe and the US, including for New York's Lincoln Center. In spring 2016 Deutsche Grammophon released her Tchaikovsky album with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy, following her 2015 debut on the label, featuring the Glazunov and Sibelius concertos.
Since winning the Cello First Prize and Gold Medal at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011 at the age of 22, Narek Hakhnazaryan has performed with most major orchestras across the globe and has established himself internationally as one of the finest cellists of his generation. From 2014 to 2016 he joined BBC's New Generation Artists scheme and in August 2016 he made his BBC Proms debut. Narek has performed with orchestras such as the Orchestre de Paris, London Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Sydney Symphony and NHK Symphony, and with conductors such as Valery Gergiev, Neeme Järvi, Mikhail Pletnev, Leonard Slatkin and Tugan Sokhiev. He made a hugely successful debut with the LA Philharmonic (Lionel Bringuier) at the Hollywood Bowl in 2015 and toured Spain with the WDR Symphony (Jukka-Pekka Saraste) in the same year.