Kronos Quartet - 25 Years (10 CD box set, APE)
Kronos Quartet - 25 Years (10 CD box set, APE)

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 10 CD boxset
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Nonesuch
Size: 2.43 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Disc: 01
01. Judah to Ocean
02. Toot Nipple
03. Dogjam
04. Pavane: She’s So Fine
05. Rag the Bone
06. Habanera
07. Stubble Crotchet
08. Hammer & Chisel
09. Alligator Escalator
10. St?ndchen: The Little Serenade
11. Judah to Ocean (Reprise)
12. Fratres – The Kronos Quartet, Part, Arvo
13. Psalom – The Kronos Quartet, Part, Arvo
14. Summa – The Kronos Quartet, Part, Arvo
15. Kyrie
16. Gloria
17. Credo
18. Sanctus
19. Agnus Dei
20. Ite, missa est

Disc: 02
01. I. Gentle, easy
02. II. Moderate
03. III. Driving
04. Song of Twenty Shadows
05. Asleep
06. Loving
07. Anxiety
08. Despertar
09. Fear
10. Five Tango Sensations: Fear – The Kronos Quartet, Piazzolla, Astor
11. Four, For Tango – The Kronos Quartet, Piazzolla, Astor

Disc: 03
01. Piano and String Quartet – The Kronos Quartet, Feldman, Morton

Disc: 04
01. I
02. II
03. III
04. 1957 – Award Montage
05. November 25 – Ichigaya
06. 1934 – Grandmother and Kimitake
07. 1962 – Body Building
08. Blood Oath
09. Mishima / Closing
10. I
11. II
12. III
13. IV
14. I
15. II
16. III
17. IV
18. V

Disc: 05
01. Prelude: Calmo, sospeso
02. I. Agitato – Con fuoco – Maestoso – Senza misura, oscilante
03. II. Teneramente – Ruvido – Presto
04. III. Calmo, sospeso – Allegro pesante
05. Postlude: Lento, liberamente
06. Quartet No.4 – The Kronos Quartet, Gubaydulina, Sofiya
07. Mugam Sayagi – The Kronos Quartet, Ali-Zade, Franguiz

Disc: 06
01. I. Largo (Sostenuto – Mesto)
02. II. Deciso – Energico (Marcatissimo sempre)
03. III. Arioso: Adagio cantabile
04. IV. Allegro (Sempre con grande passione e molto marcato)
05. Already It Is Dusk, Quartet No.1, Op.62 – The Kronos Quartet, Gorecki, Henryk

Disc: 07
01. America – Before the War
02. Europe – During the War
03. After the War
04. I. Departure (Threnody I: Night of the Electric Insects; Sounds of Bones and Flutes; Lost Bells; De
05. II. Absence (Pavana Lachrymae; Thenody II: Black Angels!; Sarabanda de la Muerte Oscura; Lost Bells
06. III. Return (God-music; Ancient Voices; Ancient Voices (Echo); Threnody III: Night of the Electric

Disc: 08
01. Introduction
02. Cadenza: Violin I
03. Where Was Wisdom When We Went West?
04. Cadenza: Viola
05. March of the Old Timers Reefer Division
06. Cadenza: Violin II
07. Tuning to Rolling Thunder
08. The Night Cry of Black Buffalo Woman
09. Cadenza: Cello
10. Captain Jack Has the Last Word
11. Cadenza on the Night Plain: Captain Jack Has the Last Word – The Kronos Quartet, Riley, Terry
12. III. The Gift: Echoes of Primordial Time
13. III. The Gift: Mongolian Winds
14. V. Good Medicine: Good Medicine Dance
15. Salome Dances for Peace: V. Good Medicine: Good Medicine Dance – The Kronos Quartet, Riley, Terry

Also available:  Accardo: Piazzolla - Adios Nonino (SACD, ISO)

Disc: 09
01. I. Moderato
02. II. Agitato
03. III. Mesto
04. IV. Moderato
05. I. Lento
06. II. Allegro
07. III. Lento
08. IV. Vivace
09. V. Lento
10. Collected Songs Where Every Verse Is Filled with Grief

Disc: 10
01. I. Deciso
02. II. Amoroso
03. I. Con dolore
04. II. Risoluto; calmo
05. III. Con dolore
06. IV. Con precisione
07. V. Con dolore
08. From Ubirr – The Kronos Quartet, Sculthorpe, Peter
09. Tragedy at the Opera
10. First Dance
11. Second Dance
12. Third Dance
13. Fourth Dance
14. Fifth Dance

A must

This is really a set to treasure. The Kronos quartet’s credentials, along with the Ardittis, as champions of new music are not in question, but whereas the Ardittis champions the avant-garde end of the spectrum, the Kronos focuses on the more, shall we call it “post-avantgardish” composers. Thus, Kronos has, in addition to playing and commissioning music by leading contemporary composers – in particular those associated with minimalism – made forays into world- and non-western (and even pop) music. Indeed, it is perhaps striking that none of the composers featured on this set are, at least originally, from Western Europe (but there is, to be fair, a disproportionate number of Americans here). Still, the material – mostly reissued from earlier Kronos releases – displays a wide variety of styles, from uncompromising avant-gardism (Feldman and Crumb), through the tintinnabuli style of Pärt and the non-western foundations of e.g. Sculthorpe and Volans, to the crossover borderline contributions from Golijov and Piazzolla. And that they are without exception up to the widely variegated technical demands (in the case of Gubaidulina and Reich also involving multiple quartets and multi-tracking) is beyond doubt. And despite the wide variety of musical styles, they (as everyone acquainted with the Kronos quartet would expect) bring their own individual sound to every piece, perhaps even a little bit too much so (it would be interesting to hear what some of the material here sounded like in other hands). In several of the works they also join forces with other performers such as the clarinetist David Kracauer (Golijov), the pianist Aki Takahashi (Feldman), singers Hargis, Elder, Rogers and Hillier (Pärt) and even didjeridoo players Michael Brosnan and Mark Nolan (Sculthorpe).

The first disc opens with John Adams’ `John’s Book of Alleged Dances’, an irresistibly chatty set of `dances for which the steps have yet to be invented’. While I am, perhaps, personally not John Adams’ biggest fan, this set is an extension of the style of (his masterpiece) the chamber symphony. It is juxtaposed with several offerings from Arvo Pärt, among other things a string quartet version of `Fratres’ (works rather well), and the extremely concise but ultimately perhaps not very memorable `Missa Syllabica’.

The second disc consists of music by Ken Benshoof (the not very memorable `Traveling Music’, probably included because it was the Kronos’ first commissioned piece, and the far more interesting, later Song of Twenty Shadows) and Astor Piazzolla – in the latter case his 5 Tango Sensations, probably worthwhile for those who generally warm to his music, and the short, aggressive Four, for tango, which is fascinating even to those who don’t.

The third disc is allocated to Feldman’s `Piano and String Quartet’, an uncompromisingly feldmanesque, static – but quite mesmerizing – work, and the fourth disc to four string quartets signed Philip Glass. These are in fact excellent works, surprisingly fresh, inventive and variegated, and probably belong among the absolutely best on this composer’s huge and hugely variable work-list. The fifth disc contains the perhaps most immediately approachable work, Osvaldo Golijov’s `The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind’, a stirringly atmospheric, visionary and almost hysteric kletzmer-based work. It is interestingly contrasted with Sofia Gubaidulina’s compelling but far more concentration-requiring fourth quartet and Ali-Zadeh’s atmospheric but overlong Azerbaijani folk music inspired `Mugam Sayagi’.

The sixth disc presents Henryk Gorecki’s (then) two quartets, strident and rather abrasive pieces that would serve as a refreshing anti-dote to anyone who has experienced his famous elegiac third symphony. The seventh disc is allotted to the music of Terry Riley, the rather uninteresting, if intermittently pleasant, `Cadenza on the Night Plain’, and `In g’, the somewhat pale and inconsequential follow-up to his famous In C. Far more interesting are the excerpts from `Salome Dances for Peace’, but on the whole this is probably the least interesting disc in the set. By contrast, the eighth disc contains two already classic masterpieces, Steve Reich’s harrowing `Different Trains’, and George Crumb’s even more harrowing – terrifying, even – take on Schubert’s `Death and the Maiden’ and the Vietnam war in `Black Angels’.

The ninth disc is given to Alfred Schnittke’s second and fourth string quartets and an arrangement of a section from his choir concerto. These are dark, stirring and immensely worthwhile personal utterances. The last disc represent the most non-Western based music in the set, with Sculthorpe’s take on Australian Aboriginal music (complete with didjeridoos – without sounding at all gimmicky – in `From Ubirr’ ), a short piece from P.Q. Phan and the South-African Kevin Volans’ already classic first string quartet `White Man Sleeps’ – also possibly deserving of the epithet `masterpiece’.

This excellently played and broad survey is, in short, probably the best possible introduction to the (more or less) contemporary post-avant-garde. Even the design and the presentation are exquisite. Strongly recommended.

Amazingly Now Retrospective

Since their youthful start in the NW back in the 70’s, Kronos has collaborated with, commissioned, or just played such a breadth of musicians it almost seems that breadth – and especially non western world culture – is their mission. But, while this conservatively and esthetically designed 25-yr-retrospective box (with its increasingly sophisticated photo-portraits) belies the pulsation of social angst and conscience that underlies the bulk of the inclusions, the latter concern, its vitality and relevance – and not some stylish chasing after cultural breadth – is what overtakes the listener/reader, rather soon. I say reader, since the booklet is very helpful, especially to the relative novice, and well balanced in its coverage of composers, historical contexts, performers, individual texts, etc.
There are probably more non contemporaries performed by the Quartet over the years than this selection would indicate. That undercuts their ties with the sense of revolution in music throughout the ages, but it leaves more time for the present: and that is where one expects the group wishes to be, is most contributory and challenged, and is best and most fairly judged. Highly recommended, both for those who know Kronos’s work well and wish a handsome tribute on their shelf, and for those who do not but are open and ready to be affected, whether impacted esthetically, reminded socio-morally, or whatever combination of both befits.

7 Comments

  1. For some reason I only have this in a lossey format. I particularity like their interpretation of Phillip Glass on disc 4. Thank you Whatever for making this available in a lossless format.

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