Musical Heroines 

The first all-female chamber ensemble performs in Richmond.

It hasn't always been easy. The three young women who make up the ensemble had to break age-old gender barriers into what was once a male-dominated, chamber-music world. "In the beginning, people couldn't imagine how three pretty young girls could play well together and [have] so many doors slammed in our faces," Sant'Ambrogio says. But the members of the group took this as a positive, she says, and it made them give 200 percent at every performance.

Today, many young women tell the Eroica Trio how they've inspired them to go after their dream — whether it's being a musician, or going into any other male-dominated career. "I'm proud that we can be a role model to young girls," Sant'Ambrogio says.

The group, named after Beethoven's Third Symphony the "Eroica," meaning heroic, performs the technically challenging Beethoven Triple Concerto more frequently than any other trio in the world. Instead of a typical concerto, where there is one soloist with orchestra, a triple concerto features three soloists who can think as one, making it a perfect choice for three players who have been friends since childhood.

The members have been together longer than any other chamber group with no personnel changes — 18 years, "but we're still younger than the Guarneri Quartet when they formed," Sant'Ambrogio says.

The members share a unique history. Pena and Nickrenz began playing together at age 9. Nickrenz and Sant'Ambrogio both studied piano and chamber music with Sant'Ambrogio's grandmother. All three members are graduates of the Juilliard School.

The group has just released its seventh recording, "The Best of Eroica Trio," which includes favorites from such composers as Albinoni, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Dvorak, Brahms, Godard, Schoenfield, Piazzola, Rachmaninov and Villa-Lobos that were featured on six earlier releases.

Besides gracing magazine covers like "Fanfare" and "Cigar," The Eroica Trio is proud to have an award-winning Riesling wine named in their honor as well as a cocktail. "Anything that can get classical music in the public eye is great," Sant'Ambrogio says.

So what's next for the Eroica Trio? Luckily it's to Richmond April 9, when they'll play a program of Beethoven, Schubert and Bragato as part of the Mary Anne Rennolds Chamber Concert Series at Virginia Commonwealth University before heading to the Far East in the fall. But wherever else the future takes the first all-female chamber ensemble, it seems certain that they will continue to challenge, triumph and transform the classical music world. S

The Erotica Trio play VCU's Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall Saturday, April 9, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call 828-6776 or e-mail music@vcu.edu.

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