Carmel Palladium; April 17
Many years ago the Kronos Quartet came here for several visits under several auspices. They consisted of four young firebrand string players who wanted to push the quartet medium into the future. Their performance of Fratres by Arvo Pärt then produced for me a musical epiphany.
Sunday night, the group returned as four middle-aged firebrand string players who continue to move the genre ahead — but with additional trappings. Now world famous for commissioning scores of new scores from every set of players intent on sharing the adventure of exploring new music, the Kronos have added a lighting designer and a sound designer.
The former shifted the Palladium stage through a full spectrum of colors during the foursome’s eight offerings, and the latter phased in either bass reinforcement of the viola and cello through two large speakers on either side of the group or added sounds from other instruments — not to mention vocal incantations and other, non-musical sonics. The effect worked well from my second-tier seat on the hall’s left side; everything had just the right resonance.
Judging new music is fraught with danger for the critic; posterity almost always proves him/her wrong. Nonetheless I reacted the most favorably to two of the Kronos offerings: Raga Mishra Bhairavi: Alap (1987) by Indian composer Ram Narayan and …hold me, neighbor, in this storm… (2007) by Yugoslav composer Aleksandra Vrebalov (b. 1970). In both these works, the consummate artistry, the beautiful bowing and the perfect ensemble blend put these players at the top of the heap in any quartet era they choose to pounce on.