For more than 40 years, the Kronos Quartet—David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello)—has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually re-imagining the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 50 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world’s most intriguing and accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 850 works and arrangements for string quartet. A Grammy winner, Kronos is also the only recipient of both the Polar Music Prize and the Avery Fisher Prize.
Since 1973, Kronos has built a compellingly eclectic repertoire for string quartet, performing and recording works by 20th-century masters (Bartók, Webern, Schnittke), contemporary composers (John Adams, Osvaldo Golijov, Aleksandra Vrebalov), jazz legends (Ornette Coleman, Maria Schneider, Thelonious Monk), rock artists (guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, Brazilian electronica artist Amon Tobin, Icelandic group Sigur Rós), and artists who defy genre (performance artist Laurie Anderson, composer/sound sculptor/inventor Trimpin, and singer-songwriter/poet Patti Smith).
Integral to Kronos’ work is a series of long-running, in-depth collaborations with many of the world’s foremost composers, including: “Father of Minimalism” Terry Riley, on projects such as the NASA-commissioned Sun Rings (2002) and The Serquent Risadome (2014); Philip Glass, including an all-Glass CD in 1995 and the premiere of String Quartet No. 6 in 2013; Azerbaijan’s Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, featured on the 2005 CD Mugam Sayagi; Steve Reich, including Kronos’ recording of the Grammy-winning composition Different Trains (1989) and WTC 9/11 (2011); and many more.
Kronos has also collaborated with performers from around the world, including the Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man; Azeri vocalist Alim Qasimov, legendary Bollywood “playback singer” Asha Bhosle; Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq; and the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks. Kronos has also performed live and/or recorded with artists such as Paul McCartney, Allen Ginsberg, Zakir Hussain, Rokia Traoré, Tom Waits, Rhiannon Giddens, Howard Zinn, Betty Carter, David Bowie, and rock bands The National, Nine Inch Nails, and Sigur Rós. In dance, the famed choreographers Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Eiko & Koma, and Paul Lightfoot and Sol León (Nederlands Dans Theater) have created pieces with Kronos’ music.
Kronos’ work has been featured prominently in film, including two recent Academy Award–nominated documentaries: the AIDS-themed How to Survive a Plague (2012) and Dirty Wars (2013), an exposé of covert warfare. Kronos also recorded full scores by Philip Glass (for Mishima and Dracula) and by Clint Mansell (Noah, The Fountain, and Requiem for a Dream) and has contributed music to 21 Grams, Heat, and other films.
The quartet tours extensively each year, appearing in concert halls, clubs, and festivals including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Big Ears, BAM Next Wave Festival, the Barbican in London, WOMAD, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Shanghai Concert Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. Kronos is equally prolific and wide-ranging on recordings, including the Nonesuch releases Pieces of Africa (1992), a showcase of African-born composers that simultaneously topped Billboard’s Classical and World Music lists; Nuevo (2002), a Grammy- and Latin Grammy–nominated celebration of Mexican culture; and the 2004 Grammy-winner, Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite, featuring renowned soprano Dawn Upshaw. Among the group’s recent releases are Aheym: Kronos Quartet Plays Music by Bryce Dessner (Anti-, 2013) and two 2014 Nonesuch releases: Kronos Explorer Series, a five-CD retrospective boxed set; and the single-disc A Thousand Thoughts, featuring mostly unreleased recordings from throughout Kronos’ career. 2015 brought the release of Tundra Songs by Derek Charke as well as a boxed set of Terry Riley’s music written for and performed by Kronos. Music publishers Boosey & Hawkes and Kronos have released two editions of Kronos Collection sheet music: Volume 1 (2006) and the new Volume 2 (2014), featuring six Kronos-commissioned arrangements by composer Osvaldo Golijov.
With a staff of 11 based in San Francisco, the non-profit Kronos Performing Arts Association (KPAA) manages all aspects of Kronos’ work, including the commissioning of new works, concert toursand home-season performances, and educational program. KPAA’s Kronos: Under 30 Project, features a unique commissioning and residency program for composers under age 30. KRONOS PRESENTS is a new presenting program showcasing Kronos’ commissioned works, artistic projects, and musical collaborations through an annual festival, education and community activities, and other events in the Bay Area and beyond.
In 2015 KPAA launched a new commissioning and education initiative – Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire. With Carnegie Hall as lead partner, KPAA is commissioning 50 new works – by 5 women and 5 men each year for five years – devoted to contemporary approaches to the quartet and designed expressly for the training of students and emerging professionals. The quartet will premiere each piece and create companion materials, including scores and parts, recordings, videos, performance notes, and composer interviews, to be distributed online for free. Through this model, Kronos’ Fifty for the Future will providing young musicians with both an indispensable library of learning and a blueprint for their own future collaborations with composers. Kronos, Carnegie Hall, and an adventurous list of project partners that includes presenters, academic institutions, foundations and individuals, have joined forces to support this exciting new initiative of unprecedented scope and potential impact.
This performance marks Kronos Quartet’s La Jolla Music Society debut.