Lincoln Trio Spotlights Living Chicago Composers on Cedille Records Album Coming June 10

The two-time Grammy-nominated and Billboard-listed Lincoln Trio – violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, cellist David Cunliffe and pianist Marta Aznavoorian – review the works of five of their hometown’s most beloved living composers on Trios from Contemporary Chicago, available June 10, 2022, on Cédille Records.

The album contains world premiere recordings of three works written for the Lincoln Trio: Shawn E. Okpebholo’s City Beautiful, a tribute to Chicago’s acclaimed architecture; Mischa Zupko’s Fanfare 80, celebrating a revered local music school, and Stacy Garrop’s deeply felt tribute to her late father, Sanctuary.

The ensemble has also selected works by two prominent and widely recognized Chicago composers whom they greatly admire and have worked with over the decades: Augusta Read Thomas…a circle around the sun…and Shulamit Ran’s Soliloquy (Cedille Records CDR 90000 211).

Cornerstone of the series

Contemporary Chicago Trios crowns the Lincoln Trio’s two-part series focusing on notable Chicago composers past and present. Billboard’s Big Shoulders City Ensemble Trios, released in 2021, featured work by 20th-century figures Leo Sowerby and Ernst Bacon.

In a podcast interview with Cedille Records Founder and President James Ginsburg, Lincoln Trio cellist David Cunliffe, speaking on behalf of the ensemble, says that beyond the focus on Chicago, what the albums have in common are composers who “break the rules” and create their own signature styles, regardless of musical leanings and orthodoxies. The full interview can be streamed on

Architectural icons

Okpebholo’s music has been described as “devastatingly beautiful” and “fresh, new and fearless” (Washington Post).

Its beautiful three-movement city evokes a trio of Chicago’s distinctive architectural landmarks: Jeanne Gang’s 82-story Aqua Tower skyscraper, with undulating balconies reminiscent of lapping water (as seen on the cover of the album); Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School masterpiece, the Frederick C. Robie House; and Daniel Burnham’s Beaux-Arts Union Station.

Okpebholo (pronounced ohk-PEH-boh-loh), who, in Cunliffe’s words, wields “a wonderful imagination”, is the only composer on the album that the Lincoln Trio had not previously worked with.

According to the violinist of the Ruhstrat ensemble, the group was looking to commission a work for the project from a rising star. The sources she consulted placed Okpebholo, an American composer of Nigerian and African American descent, at the top of their lists.

Zupko’s music has been praised by The New York Times, Classical Voice North America, The Chicago Tribune and other major publications and has been championed, commissioned and premiered by leading American orchestras and chamber groups. Blue Matter by Zupko, inspired by the jazz, blues and hip-hop traditions of Chicago, will have its world premiere on June 17, 2022 by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus of Chicago, conducted by Carlos Kalmar.

His festive ’80s fanfare opens with the characteristics of a classical fanfare, with “antiphonal volleys” among the instruments and occasional “dancing wild” passages from the piano. It was commissioned for the 80th anniversary of the Music Institute of Chicago. This is no ordinary marching band, the trio says, citing its shifting rhythms and unusual time signatures.

“One of Chicago’s most sensitive composers” (Chicago Tribune), Garrop is also among the busiest. Recent commissions include works for The Crossing, Grant Park Orchestra and St. Louis Symphony.

His Sanctuary in two movements traces a deeply personal journey, a struggle to remember and reconnect with his father, who died during his childhood. The music, commissioned by Garrop’s mother, exhibits the composer’s signature narrative drama as the protagonist recovers the memories of a lost relative, followed by the joy and solemnity of “[finding] the parent in the sanctuary of his own heart,” Garrop wrote in the album’s liner notes.

Local lights

The recipient of numerous awards and honours, Read Thomas is “a true virtuoso composer” (The New Yorker). Its vibrant and multicolored circle… around the sun… gives each instrument, in turn, a “star” role at the center of a compact musical solar system.

In addition to receiving the Pulitzer Prize in 1991, Ran has received nearly every major accolade an American composer can deserve. His Soliloquy, illustrating unrequited love, is based on a musical fragment from his first opera, Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk), with the violin serving as the emotional center.

“We have sincere admiration and respect for all of the composers on the album, who shape the cultural heritage of our great city,” said Lincoln Trio pianist Aznavoorian. “It’s important that classical ensembles engage with contemporary music and allow the best of it to be heard.”

Grammy-winning recording crew

Trios from Contemporary Chicago was recorded by the Grammy Award-winning team of producer Ginsburg and recording engineer Bill Maylone July 26-28, 2021 at the Reva and David Logan Center for The Arts at the University of Chicago and March 2–3, 2022, Nichols Concert Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston, Illinois.

Lincoln Trio on Cédille Records

The Lincoln Trio’s extensive Cedille Records discography includes the Grammy-nominated Trios From Our Homelands; the complete works for several strings and piano by Joaquin Turina; and their debut album, Notable Women, featuring works by Jennifer Higdon, Joan Tower, Lera Auerbach, Stacy Garrop, Augusta Read Thomas and Laura Schwendinger. The trio performs on four additional Cedille albums where they co-star with other artists. The trio performed on Naxos’ Grammy-nominated release, Annelies, based on The Diary of Anne Frank. You can find more information about the ensemble and its recordings at

Cedille Records

Launched in November 1989 by James Ginsburg, Grammy Award-winning Cedille Records (pronounced say-DEE) is dedicated to showcasing and promoting the Chicago area’s most notable classical artists. The label’s catalog of over 200 frontline albums abounds with engaging, off-the-beaten-path repertoire from the Baroque era to the present day. Works from the classical canon, when they appear, are usually heard in particularly imaginative pairs.

Cedille has recorded over 180 Chicago artists and ensembles, more than 80 of whom have made their professional debut on the label. Its catalog includes the world premieres of more than 400 classical compositions.

The audiophile-oriented label releases each new album in multiple formats – physical CD, 96 kHz, 24-bit, studio-quality FLAC download and 320 Kbps MP3 download – and on major streaming services.

An independent, non-profit company, Cedille Records is the label of Cedille Chicago, NFP. Sales of physical CDs and digital downloads and streams cover only a small percentage of the label’s costs. Tax-deductible donations from individual music lovers and grants from charitable organizations account for the bulk of its income.

Cedille’s corporate headquarters are at 4311 N. Ravenswood Ave., Suite 202, Chicago, IL 60613; call 773-989-2515; email: Website:

Cedille Records is distributed in the Western Hemisphere by Naxos of America and its distribution partners, by Naxos Music UK and by other independent Naxos Network distributors in classical music markets around the world.

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