Around the world with Kronos Quartet

I have a very unorganized check-list of things that I’d like to experience before it is too late (whatever that may mean). Among those was to see Yo-Yo Ma perform live, and I did that with a last minute ticket luck at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw two years ago when he performed with Emanuel Ax. At that time while gushing about how I checked off something from this said list, I admitted to friends that Kronos Quartet was quite high on this list.

Like many others, I first ‘registered’ the existence of Kronos Quartet after I watched Requiem For A Dream, proceeded to get the soundtrack and had it on loop along with my goosebumps. But this lead to a longer journey of discovering what Kronos Quartet was all about, what they stood for, and all the interesting projects they were doing. Kronos Quartet is no regular string quartet, and I finally got to see them live on Friday night at the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ (thanks to my mother who pays attention to newsletters she receives and told me 5 days before the Amsterdam concert that they were coming).

Photo by Zoran Orlic.

The program of the concert was a showcase of Kronos Quartet projects’ diversity, style-wise as well as geographically. The first half started in the US with Bryce Dessner’s (The National) Aheym, continuing over to Canada with Nicole Lizee’s Death to Kosmische (and no, not cosmic in German, but a 60s Eastern German music genre, which explains A LOT). Then the journey from Canada over to India took us to Ram Narayan’s Alap, with traditional Indian instruments. The first half ended with perhaps the mentally toughest of the concert, with the Dutch premiere of Steve Reich’s WTC 9/11, which was beautiful and haunting at the same time.

After a small journey back to Amsterdam while enjoying drinks at the Muziekgebouw, the concert continued to Bagdad to a traditional maqam, which lifted spirits in between Reich and Mansell’s Lux Aeterna. I have loved Lux Aeterna ever since I first heard it, yet somehow, among all the beautiful music Kronos Quartet played on Friday, it was the least interesting in the end. But still beautiful. Our journey stayed states-side with Laurie Anderson’s Flow only to be transported to Yugoslavia to Aleksandra Vrebalov’s ‘…hold me, neighbor, in this storm..’.

It was a beautiful concert, and the ever-so-appreciative Dutch audience was already giving a standing ovation to KQ. They were appreciated in return when David Harrington complimented the water (and the chocolate milk) in the Netherlands for creating such an enthusiastic audience. It seemed like the quartet does not feel appreciated in their hometown San Francisco. So sad.

Amazingly, this was not the end. Kronos Quartet continued with several additional songs after the a few more standing ovations (the Dutch are very generous with these): a song by Greek Marika Papagika, another Mansell piece from the movie The Fountain: Death is the Road to Awe. The journey ended in beautiful iceland, when Kronos Quartet played their Sigur Ros cover of Flugufrelsarinn (super goosebumps).

Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ after the concert. Photo by @sirintugbay.

In the end, it was a beautiful night, with great music. The best part? Just because I checked seeing Kronos Quartet live off of my list doesn’t mean I won’t see them again. Next time I need to read newsletters more carefully, though.


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