See my review of the latest concert by the Kronos Quartet at Clarice Smith Center:
The Kronos Quartet at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (The Washingtonian, September 19):
The Kronos Quartet -- the pioneering ensemble which opened the fifth year of its residency at College Park’s Clarice Smith Center on Friday night -- is a string quartet, but really it is not. The appeal of a traditional string quartet’s performance is in the appreciation of the warm tone of the four instruments. A small and intimate room, with a warm acoustic and a silent and attentive audience, is an essential part of this cult of beautiful sound, allowing the blend of four excellent musicians to reach your ear. Families and friends used to gather, and sometimes still do, to play string quartets in living rooms, but modern string instruments, with more resonant steel strings, can often overpower too small a room, just as they are lost in one too large. Washingtonians have many opportunities to hear this kind of concert in an optimal setting, for example, on the best historical instruments available, in the superb auditorium of the Library of Congress.
Mugam Sayagi: Music of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Kronos Quartet, F. Ali-Zadeh (2005)
That is not what the Kronos Quartet does, and anyone with those expectations will be disappointed by their performances. A Kronos concert veers into the territory of theater, with lighting concepts, a fully darkened house, and atmospheric recorded tracks associated with many of the pieces they play. The musicians plug cords into their instruments, which amplify and otherwise transform the sound they produce. This was evident right from the start of this concert, when recorded sounds of dripping water opened Oasis (1998). The piece was an evocation of the allure of water in the desert, composed for the Kronos Quartet by the Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh. The musicians imitated this sound with a pizzicato motif, disappearing as the piece grew over a gentle arc, marked with melodic references to traditional Azerbaijani scales, with the drips of water returning at the conclusion. [Continue reading]
Tom Huizenga, Kronos Quartet at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (Washington Post, September 19)
Charles T. Downey, Reich WTC 9/11 (The Classical Review, September 12)