Kronos Quartet Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Premiere of Philip Glass
This post is by Lisa Driscoll, a Junior Vocal Performance and Broadcast Journalism double major. You can read more of her writing on her blog
The Kronos Quartet celebrated its 40th anniversary on October 24 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center with a vast variety of musical styles and an East Coast premiere of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 6, which was co-commissioned by the Center for the occasion. The performance was also the Center debut of new member and cellist Sunny Yang.
Sim Sholom by Alter Yechiel Karniol was probably my favorite piece of the evening, as it showed how expressive the quartet is as a whole, but particularly Yang. Her dynamics and virtuoso musicianship were stunning.
David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin) and Hank Dutt (viola) have a long-standing relationship with the Clarice Smith Center and work closely with UMD School of Music students. As part of this relationship, the group spent time during the week working with composition students, guiding them throughout their creative process.
The program began with a contemporary piece by Canadian composer John Oswald titled Spectre. Intense lighting and poses added to the artistic spectacle, while the music continued to build in volume and, in a sense, in number of players. In fact, the quartet was actually written for a 1,001-piece orchestra, so Kronos played with overdubs that were recordings of their playing in order to steadily multiply the sound. Oswald wrote in the notes that this wall of sound at the apex of the piece is meant to show a "virtually extended moment."
Kronos again switched into a different style with the next composition, a beautiful classical song originally written for a Polish cantor that highlighted Sunny Yang’s fine playing on the cello. Sim Sholom by Alter Yechiel Karniol was probably my favorite piece of the evening, as it showed how expressive the quartet is as a whole, but particularly Yang. Her dynamics and virtuoso musicianship were stunning.
The Philip Glass premiere came right before intermission in a three-movement, half hour long quartet. Glass considers it to be ‘post-minimalist’ and tonal. Overall, the piece held similarities to his other quartets in repetition of short themes, but this quartet had a denser texture than others.
The second half began with On the Wings of Pegasus, a work co-commissioned by 21-year-old Yuri Boguinia, the youngest composer to ever write for Kronos. The program ended with an East Coast premiere of an interesting 12-movement piece
It was obvious that the audience was composed of a dedicated fan base. After two encore pieces, Powerhouse by Raymond Scott and Colombian cowboy music, the audience began to chant, “40 more years!”
“Yeah, we’re just getting started,” said Harrington.
The Kronos Quartet will premiere three works by student composition majors at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on February 20, 2014 at 7PM.