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Kronos Quartet goes Beyond Zero

Since its founding in 1973, The Kronos String Quartet has been on the cutting edge of contemporary chamber music, and their many visits to Urbana’s Krannert Center have reminded local audiences of their special contribution to the music of our time.

On March 10, quartet members John Sherba, Sunny Yang, Hank Dutt and David Harrington (pictured above, left to right) return to the Tryon Festival Theatre for another evening of musical adventure that constantly redefines our definition of classical music.

Critically lauded and professionally admired, it did not take long for the reputation of this quartet to spread to the composers of the world. To date, over 800 works commissioned for them, a figure that breaks down to almost 20 a year. They have recorded close to 60 compact discs and have sold over a million and a half of those recordings. Among their tally of awards are seven first place ASCAP Awards, Edison Awards, and a Grammy Award in 2005 for Best Classical Chamber Performance. In addition to all of these accolades, they were named Musical America’s Musicians of the Year in 2003.

Kronos Quartet’s distinctive sound has reached well beyond the concert hall, as they can be heard on seven pretty stunning film scores (including Heat and Requiem for a Dream) and even albums by Dave Matthews Band (Before These Crowded Streets, 1998) and Nine Inch Nails (Zero Year Remixed, 2007). They can also recapture works of past masters with their own extraordinary idiomatic playing. My own introduction to their artistry was the CD Black Angels, which is 61 minutes of unforgettable string playing. Taking some extraordinary compositions from contemporaries like George Crumb and then adapting the works of 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis to their idiom can instantly put you in awe of the breadth of their musical achievements.

With a repertoire of close to 1,000 works, guessing at what their setlist might include would come close to redefining the word “speculation.” Based on a “possible program” posted on their website, the Kronos program for their March 10 appearance at KCPA could include such standards as Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet or an adaptation of a Byzantine chant by contemporary composer Aleksandra Vrebalov. An arrangement of works by Maurice Ravel or Sergei Rachmaninov is also a possibility, as is a performance of Anton Webern’s Six Bagatelles.


What they have definitively promised for the March 10th audience is a new work by Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov that will accompany a new film by Bill Morrison called Beyond Zero, 1914-1918. In Krannert Center’s Tryon Festival Theatre, audiences will experience a live film score to a new film that commemorates the centennial of the First World War. And, as if that isn’t enticing enough, the public is also invited to stop by at 10:30 the next morning for a discussion in the Tryon Festival Theatre with the Kronos Quartet themselves.

For further information go to the Krannert Center website or call the Krannert Ticket Office at 217-333-8280. The March 11th morning discussion session has no admission charge.

Photo credits: Jay Blackesberg and Lenny Gonzalez (top photo).

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