For nearly 50 years, Kronos Quartet has dazzled audiences around the globe with artful experimentation, mixing familiar arrangements with the element of surprise — and on Tuesday, Sept. 17, the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts welcomes Kronos Quartet as its first artist of the 2019/2020 Season.
Based in San Francisco, Kronos Quartet has spent the last four-plus decades pursuing a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagining the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of modern times, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 60 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers and commissioning more than 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet. Its current iteration of members includes founder David Harrington on violin, John Sherba on violin, Hank Dutt on viola and Sunny Yang on the cello.
Kronos’ latest release, Sun Rings, was composed by Terry Riley for string quartet, chorus and pre-recorded space sounds in 2002. Commissioned in part by NASA, Sun Rings has been performed by Kronos Quartet around the world, but the first complete recording with chamber singing group Volti and the pre-recorded spacescapes was released on Nonesuch Records in August 2019.
Kronos has received more than 40 awards, including both the Polar Music and Avery Fisher Prize, two of the most prestigious awards given to musicians — and, in 2018, the group became the first U.S.-based musicians to receive the WOMEX (World Music Expo) Artist Award.
Kronos’ adventurous approach dates back to the ensemble’s origins. In 1973, David Harrington was inspired to form Kronos after hearing George Crumb’s Black Angels, a highly unorthodox, Vietnam War-inspired work featuring bowed water glasses, spoken word passages and electronic effects. Kronos then began building a compellingly eclectic repertoire for string quartet, performing and recording works by 20th century masters, contemporary composers, jazz legends, rock artists and artists who truly defy genre (like multi-disciplinary artists Laurie Anderson and Trevor Paglen, spoken-word poets from Youth Speaks) — resulting in a repertoire that ranges from Bartók, Webern and Schnittke to Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Sigur Rós.
The group’s work has also been featured prominently in a number of films, including the Academy Award–nominated documentaries How to Survive a Plague (2012) and Dirty Wars (2013), for which Kronos founder Harrington served as music supervisor. Kronos also recorded complete film score.
The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is located at 18 Biltmore Ave.
To purchase tickets for the Tuesday, Sept. 17 performance of Kronos Quartet (Regular $45; Student $40; Child $20; Student Rush, day-of-show with valid I.D. $10), call the Wortham Center Box Office at 828-257-4530 or visit worthamarts.org.