Kronos Quartet and new music

Emory’s Schwartz Center brought the Kronos Quartet to Atlanta last night for an evening of transcendent, or as we used to say in the ’60s, mind-blowing music. In addition, the audience had a chance to see the Azerbaijan Alim Qasimov Ensemble, whose Mugham indigenous classical music included spirited vocal duets accompanied by the tar, a long-necked lute, daf (frame drums), kamancha (spike fiddle) and what appeared to be a clarinet.

This is one of the pieces that Kronos and Qasimov’s ensemble performed together, titled ‘Getme, Getme’, which means ‘Don’t leave, don’t leave’ and was written by Said Rustamov (1907-1983).

Kronos Quartet & Alim Qasimov Ensemble – Getme, Getme (Said Rustamov, Azerbaijan) from Kronos Quartet on Vimeo.

Kronos played three works before the Qasimov Ensemble appeared onstage. The first piece was my favorite, a composition by American composer Michael Gordon titled ‘Clouded Yellow’. Gordon says the title refers to the term for mass migrations of butterflies in England, ‘clouded yellow years’. Gordon’s quote from the program notes: “I love the image of a cloud of bright yellow butterflies, and I think the word ‘clouded’ describes the blurred harmonies and melodies of this piece…I imagined I was flying around on a butterfly, gliding in the air, the air dense with moisture, like in a rainforest. It was all very free and fanciful, like a travelogue around a garden.”

Here’s a bit of the composition from the Dartmouth archives and an interview with Gordon here. You can also listen to him talking about some of his work in these clips from an interview on WQXR.

Kronos also performed a dynamic piece called ‘Aheym’ (Homeward) by composer and National Band member Bryce Dessner and a Philip Glass arrangement of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ that they had played at Glass’s 75th birthday party in January. The Dylan piece was an eclectic and humorous mashup of what sounded like screaming Hawaiian slide guitars and a mouth harp.

I had the chance to meet Kronos cellist Jeffrey Zeigler at the reception after the performance. Coincidentally my good friend, video artist Ali Hossaini, has been collaborating on a new opera written by Zeigler’s wife Paola Prestini, an accomplished composer listed on NPR’s the Mix, 100 Composers under 40.

Since no CD’s were being sold at the event, Zeigler graciously offered to mail me a signed copy of their 2011 CD, Music of Vladimir Martynov, which recently made Album of the Week on WQXR’s Q2 Music:

“Moving back to the album’s beginning is a quick five-and-a-half minute The Beatitudes, which beams with religious ecstasy and provides an easy gateway to the meatier subjects. Enter with fortitude, but expect euphoria.”

The CD includes three works by the Russian composer written or rescored for the quartet, and also received high praise from music critics. The LATimes reviewed  it last year, and I am anxious to hear the magnificent ‘Beatitudes’ in full. You can hear a snippet at the Kronos website.


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