Energetic, vibrant, cool, and 50 years old – the Kronos Quartet

One of the world’s most famous string quartets will be in Budapest for a concert at the Liszt Fest on 19 October. An evening not to be missed by lovers of world music and crossover, The legendary Kronos Quartet will be joined by the magical-voiced and magical Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat, who will perform songs from the classical Persian poems of Rumi and Hafiz.

David Harrington founded the Kronos Quartet fifty years ago, and after a few years they moved from their original home in Seattle to San Francisco. Pushing the boundaries of classical music and committed to pioneering new approaches, the ensemble has experimented with a wide range of genres and trends since its beginnings. In addition to the classical repertoire, they are equally at home in the worlds of world music, early music, jazz, electronic music, tango, film music and contemporary music.

“I have always wanted the string quartet to be vibrant, energetic, alive and cool […], absolutely beautiful and, if necessary, ugly. It should express life itself. It must tell every story with elegance, humor and depth. And preferably it should tell the whole story”

– is how David Harrington puts the philosophy behind Kronos.

The founder has been the quartet’s primarius since the earliest days. Current co-musicians are John Sherba (second violin) and Hank Dutt (viola) who joined Kronos shortly after its formation in 1978, whereas the cello solo has been filled by many outstanding musicians over the years. The Japanese-American-born cellist-composer Paul Wiancko joined the quartet this year, bringing with him his diverse and restlessly vibrant artistry.

Wiancko first collaborated with the Kronos Quartet in 2018 after being asked to compose a piece for them. When he officially joined the ensemble earlier this year, Harrington said,

“We can’t wait for Paul’s playing to carry us into the future with its catalyzing, turbo-charged vitality. It will be wonderful to explore the vast world of music with him.”

Over the five decades of its existence, Kronos Quartet commissioned new works from both emerging and world-renowned composers: more than a thousand pieces have been premiered by them. Among these are works by composers such as John Adams, Arvo Pärt, Henryk Górecki, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Also, the quartet has appeared on stage with Pat Metheny, Allen Ginsberg, Astor Piazzolla, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Björk, and has performed with Mexican, Azerbaijani and Romanian gypsy musicians. They have played world music with musicians from Romania, Azerbaijan, Romania and Romania, introducing audiences in concert halls around the world to the musical heritage of all kinds of cultures. Frank Zappa wrote his 1984 song, None of the Above, for Kronos. The quartet also contributed to the 1998 album Before These Crowded Streets of Dave Matthews Band on the songs Halloween and The Stone.

Is that still not enough? Then check this out: the Kronos Quartet, which has won numerous international awards, including a Grammy, is also at the forefront of social and political engagement, focusing on important public issues through the universal language of music. They often perform works that highlight the urgent need to protect human rights, the environment and other important issues.
This extraordinary ensemble is about to visit Budapest soon, to showcase their fifty-year-old artistry, still as fresh as new, in the Müpa Budapest concert hall.

Article: Zsuzsanna Deák

Translation: Zsófia Hacsek