Things got a little funky at the Phillips Collection on Sunday, as Trilogy (a quartet on this occasion, despite its name) offered a mash-up of mash-ups from Vivaldi to Glenn Miller to Mark Ronson.
The titular group — three conservatory-trained violinists based in Belgium — is one of a growing number of genre-bending efforts that includes Time for Three, 2Cellos and Brooklyn Rider, whereby young musicians with high-level classical technique invade and synthesize other musical styles. The jury remains out on whether this is a movement of substance, i.e., whether it’s actually expanding audiences rather than attracting the merely curious. But Sunday’s high-octane concert was at least good fun.
The threesome (Hrachya Avanesyan, Lorenzo Gatto and Yossif Ivanov) put together a clever arrangement and video in 2012 of Dick Dale’s theme from “Pulp Fiction” that went viral, and led them to create several others. And here they were in the staid confines of the Phillips Music Room. In a nod to convention, each of the violinists, accompanied by pianist/arranger Alexander Gurning, offered a work from the traditional recital canon — Paganini’s “Variations on a Theme From Rossini’s ‘Moses,’ ” Tchaikovsky’s “Valse Sentimentale” and Ravel’s “Tzigane.”
All three are laureates of major international competitions and sported bow-arms that could buzz like hummingbirds or pound like jackhammers. Lyrical playing was problematic, though, as none had a relaxed, singing left hand; everything sounded wiry and pressed. But in a program that included Daft Punk, Gnarls Barkley and Ronson, the manic virtuosity fit nicely, and Gurning’s improvised transition somehow gradually took us from “Schindler’s List” to “Mission: Impossible” by way of what sounded like Dave Grusin.
Again, I’m not sure where any of this gets us, other than light entertainment. And unless they always use piano (thus negating their name), Trilogy has a built-in limitation; three treble instruments alone do not make for a satisfying sonority in the long term, no matter how dazzling the playing.