counterfnord

Gigs, dance, art

May 26th, 2008: Kronos Quartet

@theatre de la ville

Kind of a regular appointment by now, I’ve been going to hear Kronos each year for a while now. Always predictably unpredictable, but this year was a pretty good one as far as I’m concerned. Spilling the beans this early I’d say that “under 30” project was a stroke of genius that just hit me this year — shows I’m a slow learner, I should have figured that one out a while ago.

The first set began with an arrangement of the Moontrekkers’ Night of the Vampire, but even though it was both identifiable and obviously different from the original, I thought it didn’t put enough of a twist on it to be all that interesting; but that’s also because their previous covers have set the bar pretty high. J.G. Thirlwell’s Nomatophobia was much better, with too pretty a start but quickly getting stronger, and overall some interesting variations in intensity and style, especially in such a short piece, and with a quiet ending that brought to it a feeling of completeness. Amon Tobin’s Bloodstone featured samples of Kronos themselves, short bits as well as overlaid phrases, but my enjoyment was a bit spoiled by the excessive loudness of the recorded stuff, especially the beats at the end, that kinda drowned out the actual playing. No surprise with John Adam’s Fellow Traveler, I loved it. Quite fast and surprisingly short — or at least it appeared short to me — with a dynamism that I found energizing. Small details made it really satisfying to me, and I thought it was one of the most easily accessible of that composer’s works, while remaining interesting.

The set ended with a longer work, commissioned as part of their “under 30” project. I love the way this project brings exposure to younger composers and new ideas, and helps Kronos to avoid settling in a familiar routine — not that they’re close, but it shows that they don’t intend to do so. Aviya Kopelman‘s Widows & Lovers turned out to be my favorite part of the concert. Especially the first part — White Widow — with its use of crowd voices in the beginning, and the way the recorded parts were contrasting with the live playing in a way that nicely complemented it, not exactly a seamless mesh, it was better than that. The second part — Lovers — was less satisfying, as in more predictable, but the third and last part — Black Widow — definitely got me back. My liking this so much has a lot to do with the way she used the cello and especially the viola, one of the very best scores I heard for one of my favorite instruments. This got me very interested in that composer, though I don’t expect to have any opportunity to hear more of her work in the near future. At least I hope Kronos will release this someday.

The second set featured only Vladimir Martynov’s Der Abschied, and I didn’t like it much. Too pretty and expressive for me. The repeated scaling up and down got old about the second time around, and there were many more to come. It’s just not my cup of tea, and the end of the first set had me too charged up to settle down enough to dig such a slow and long one. But then came the encores, which were great as usual. The first was part of an Indian raga, a bit conventional but putting the viola at the forefront like this will always win me over. Then they played the Iraqi tune Oh Mother, The Handsome Man Tortures Me, which I first heard on Sublime FrequenciesChoubi Choubi! compilation. The final encore was Sigur Rós‘ Flugufrelsarinn, and their version was delivered with all the required energy. One of their good covers, with a good arrangement that pretty much let each performer play an important part in the whole. Of course this band’s music is close enough to be more easily adapted for a string quartet, but their version still adds something.

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May 29, 2008 - Posted by | Music | , ,

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