Kronos Quartet: A truly memorable performance

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

By Marian Poole, Otago Daily Times

A large mixed audience of Dunedin's music fraternity was privileged to hear the distinctive blend of interpretive and technical brilliance which the Kronos Quartet have at their fingertips. What a treat to hear live, music which accurately and successfully reflects the solidarities and dualities of today's world.

The term quartet does not accurately describe an ensemble which enjoys the luxury of digitally amplified voices - taxing local sound systems - which create an eclectic largesse an orchestra struggles to emulate.

A generous programme opened with nationalistic statements unsullied by the effects of war. It ended with the compelling pain of injured innocence in American Steve Reich's WTC 9/11 and of innocence injured in Hold me neighbour in this storm by Serbian Aleksandra Vrebalov.

While it would have been nice to have a similar statement regarding the pain of invasion from Syria, Omar Souleyman's La Sidounak Sayyada, a meld of classical Turkish music and Kurdish music of celebration, was highly enjoyable.

Similarly Ram Narayan's Raga Mishra Bhairavi: Alap conjured India's landscape, heat, extreme beauty and languor with heart-wrenching beauty.

Nicole Lize's Death to Kosmische, a form of East German pop music, journeyed through the composer's love-hate relationship with her native popular music tongues. With many inventive instruments at her beck and call, Lize reminds the listener not to take themselves too seriously.

Jack Body's Arum Manis reflects his formative experiences in Indonesia and the desire perhaps to be heard as more than a New Zealander. Though the work is highly successful, its impact is lessened by the fact that the solo violin is performed by an unseen and uncredited Indonesian street vendor/musician.

Valentin Silvestrov's String Quartet No 3 (1937) is the oldest and longest work in the programme and failed to wholly capture audience attention. Two encores, the Celtic-sounding Thousand Thoughts by Tusen Tankar and Death is the Road to Awe from the film Fountain, ended a truly memorable performance.