May 2005
On the Road with Kronos

Chamber Music that's Eclectic and Electric

by Paul D. Lehrman

photo: Steve Jennings

When a string quartet gets on an airplane, they get five seats, with the extra one for the cello. But here's a question: Does the cello get a baggage allowance? For most groups, that may not be a big deal, but for Kronos Quartet, who schlep along the electronic equipment they need to create their unique sound (as well as a modicum of lighting gear) packed into nearly a dozen hard-shell Pelican cases, it can mean a huge difference in what a tour costs.

If you don't know Kronos Quartet, you should. Not long ago, the group celebrated its 30th anniversary as one of the most daring and innovative “classical” music groups in the world. Violinist David Harrington founded the group in 1973 in response to hearing a performance of George Crumb's revolutionary (and fervently anti-war) quartet “Black Angels” for amplified string quartet.

Since then, they have recorded more than 40 albums by themselves, one of which earned a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance in 2004, and dozens more with other artists ranging from Nelly Furtado to Joan Armatrading to the Dave Matthews Band, as well as soundtracks for films such as Heat, Requiem for a Dream and 21 Grams. They have commissioned more than 450 new works and arrangements and have performed the works of almost every major composer of the 20th century, and promise to do the same for the 21st. And, they're fantastic.

The rest of this column, along with 56 more, is now available in The Insider Audio Bathroom Reader, published by Thomson Course Technology PTR.

Copyright ©2006 by Paul D. Lehrman