Kronos Quartet @ Place des Arts – 16th March 2019

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After Saturday night’s concert at La Maison Symphonique I can safely say that Kronos Quartet are musicians, editors and apostles and everything in between.

Let me explain myself. The ensemble demonstrated on that night not only why they have been at the vanguard of modern music since the seventies but also why contemporary composers, folk musicians, and later quartets owe a lot to the Apostolic work that Kronos has been doing.

Proof of this labor of love is their most recent commission collection aptly named “50 for the future”. In it, they assembled in five years 50 unique compositions for string quartets, specially commissioned by the group to train “students and emerging professionals.”

This project was one of the three axes on which Saturday’s presentation revolved, the other two being American music and pieces composed by Canadian composers.

Divided into two parts, the evening had no two pieces alike, and each one left a distinct impression on the audience, be that of amusement, laughter, joy, melancholy, awe and, in my case, bewilderment.

Out of the three themes that composed the evening and the 17 pieces of music that were played, there are three (one from each axis) that really stood out to me, “Another Living Soul” (by Nicole Lizée), “Dadra in Raga Bhairavi” (by N. Rajam) and “Children’s Hour of Dream” (by Charles Mingus).

The first one, from the Saskatchewan-born composer, perplexed me as it introduced children’s toys as a serious instrument and as a vessel of chaos and cacophony. The second piece, whose Indian author is, according to Kronos, the best violinist in the world, transported my soul to a state of trance and awe. And the third surprised me as it opened my ears and eyes to another side of Mingus that I did not know about.

Other noteworthy pieces that showcased what the Kronos Quartet has been doing for almost five decades are Fluggrelsarinn (by Sigur Ros), Summertime (Janis Joplin’s version, by George Gershwin) and Sivunittinni (by Canadian Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq).

The end of the concert was something that nobody in the audience wanted to affront, with two encores and more than a handful exits and re-entries to the stage. And who can blame us, after 25 years of absence from our stages, we could not get enough of the genius, wit and prophetic performance and vision of the Kronos Quartet.

To listen to the “50 for the Future” pieces and learn more about the project and the composers that take part in it, visit: kronosquartet.org/fifty-for-the-future/composers

Review – Ricardo D. Flores

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