City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Kronos Quartet Review

By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 22 August 2010

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The Usher Hall
Kronos Quartet
Running time: 
Aleksandra Vrebalov (composer), Steve Reich (composer), George Crumb (composer)
David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), Jeffrey Zeigler (cello)

The Kronos Quartet received an ecstatic reception at the Usher Hall, their first appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival. An extraordinary versatile ensemble, since their formation thirty-seven years ago their playing has encompassed award winning chamber music and collaborations with an eclectic range of musicians and composers including Jimi Hendrix, Thelonius Monk, Charlie Mingus and other established jazz musicians.

The quartet comprise of David Harrington, first violinist; John Sherba, violin; Hank Dutt, viola and Jeffrey Zeigler on the cello (their instruments were amplified). The composers in last night's programme at the Usher Hall included the Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebaklov, and the American composers Steve Reich and George Crumb.

The unifying theme was the turbulence caused by wars and all these minimalist compositions, which were technically extremely complex, incorporated an unusual range of recorded sound with interspersed voices.

Aleksandra Vrebaklov's composition "…hold me, neighbor, in this storm…" abounds with cultural and religious differences incorporating the ethnic Balkan instruments, a bowed gusle and tapan, and a double-headed drum.

Steve Reich was part of a group of composers in the Sixties who started to experiment with minimalism and by the Eighties his music had incorporated political resonances. The quartet played the three movements from Reich's "Different Trains": (1) America - Before the War, (2) Europe - During the War, (3) After the War. The last piece on the programme was by the established composer George Crumb - "Black Angels - Thirteen Images from the Dark Land."

The quartet's instruments were suspended on a wire and a small platform was erected. Dressed in black, the quartet's versatility really came to the fore in this piece. The minimalist tones, extremely difficult to play, were performed to perfection.

At one point during the composition, the string players suspended their instruments, walked up to the platform and carefully removed black material to reveal a range of glasses filled with different levels of water to create a range of tones and with great care they proceeded to stroke the rims with their bows producing the most exquisite sounds.

In all the compositions the musicians, using an earpiece, were in perfect sync with the recorded music - quite an achievement with these intricate compositions.

An extremely accomplished quartet, to the audience's delight they played a finale and as David Harrington commented it was "the first time they have ever played an encore after Black Angels".

It was music from Darren Aronofsky's sci-fi movie The Fountain and again, incorporating a recorded track. They created the most incredible full sound and to rapturous applause, the concert finally ended.

Event: 21 Aug, 8pm