It’s a little ambitious to try and pick the best Kronos Quartet record. In her program notes for the Kronos’s Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall last year, Anastasia Tsioulcas writes that “over the past 35 years, there have been no fewer than 650 compositions and arrangements for Kronos—a figure that averages to more than 18 new works per year.” That being said, for all of the works that Kronos has turned out, in their 40 studio albums, two compilations, five soundtracks and 26 works done on other artists’ records, their newest release—Uniko—may rank as my personal favorite.
You’ll probably hate me now for spinning an album with a work by two Finns that’s evocative of the Artic Circle, especially after the snow we got earlier this month. That’s fine. Come back in August and the chill will be welcome. In the meantime, though, there are so many different aspects of this album to love that you can ignore its chillier aspects. For starters: They’re working with an accordion and sampler duo, Kimmo Pohjonen and Samuli Kosminen, who also composed the piece. Amazing how two instruments can completely change the sound of a traditional string quartet (though, really, has Kronos ever been traditional?). Moreover, Pohjonen and Kosminen may give us a Bergmanesque landscape, but it tangles with some hot-hot-hot emotions. The overall effect is galvanizing.
Uniko: I. Utu
With such a massive composition—which is also Q2’s Album of the Week—we’re giving today’s episode of The New Canon over to Kronos entirely. Today, the quartet’s cellist, Jeffrey Zeigler, joins us online for a live chat—add in your own questions below or on Twitter with the hashtag #q2new.
And with the Kronos coming back to New York later this month to celebrate Steve Reich’s 75th birthday and premiere his new quartet, WTC 9/11, at Carnegie Hall, we also show off some of their other collaborations over the last few years. Listen up for Afghani and Azerbaijani influences on Layla from Rainbow (recorded with the Alim Qasimov Ensemble), and don’t miss their potent pairing with pipa virtuoso Wu Man on Emily and Alice from their 2008 recording, Terry Riley: The Cusp of Magic.