Kronos Quartet Celebrated At GRAMMY Salute To Classical Music
Tenth anniversary of event recognizes globally renowned, innovative ensemble
Held at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, this year's GRAMMY Salute To Classical Music honored the Kronos Quartet, one of the most innovative, eclectic and wide-reaching contemporary musical ensembles. The President's Merit Award presented to the Kronos Quartet by Recording Academy President Neil Portnow definitively summed up Kronos, recognizing "a remarkable career dedicated to redefining the boundaries of contemporary classical music and championing the next generation of composers and aspiring musicians."
The prestigious GRAMMY Week event marked the GRAMMY Salute To Classical Music's 10th anniversary, and prominent members of the classical-music community and current GRAMMY nominees were among the distinguished guests honoring Kronos founding member David Harrington (violin) and fellow quartet members John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola) and Jeffrey Zeigler (cello).
The Neuqua Valley High School String Quartet, national award recipient of the 2005 GRAMMY Signature Schools program, played a piece by Shostakovich as well as the Beatles' "Yesterday" at the salute. Kronos had played the same Shostakovich composition in 1975, and in his acceptance speech, Harrington said it was truly rewarding to hear it now at the event.
During the pre-event reception, the Neuqua Valley High School Woodwind Quintet provided lively entertainment, including Mozart's Magic Flute, and violin virtuosa Rieho Yu appeared later in the afternoon. The 15-year-old performs regularly in Los Angeles inner-city schools through the Musical Encounter program, and her playful, nimble-fingered rendition of Bazzini's La Ronde Des Lutins was a highlight of the afternoon.
Renowned for a dedication to experimentation and use of multimedia, the Kronos Quartet is acclaimed for integrating auditory elements with visual imagery and lighting, combining musical idioms and atmosphere in a way that effectively creates a new medium of artistic expression. To say that Kronos has reinvented the string quartet would be an understatement.
Kronos' bold musical explorations of more than three decades have yielded more than 40 recordings and thousands of concerts around the globe. Collaborations with many of the world's most distinctive musicians and composers have brought Kronos international fame and critical recognition, as well as awards, including a 2004 GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music Performance. Kronos has also received several GRAMMY nominations, and an unprecedented 500-plus works have been written or arranged to be premiered by Kronos.
Whether playing traditional string-quartet music or delving into other musical genres, Kronos has been committed to unconventionality since its beginnings. In 1973, Seattle-based violinist Harrington heard a piece of music he found intriguing, Black Angels by George Crumb. The work featured bowed water glasses, spoken word passages and electronic effects. As Portnow pointed out in his address at the salute, Crumb's work "revealed a previously unimaginable realm of possibilities" to Harrington and was the catalyst to establish the Kronos Quartet.
Over the years, Kronos has collaborated with a worldwide assortment of musical artists. Kronos' latest CD, You've Stolen My Heart,features Bollywood "playback singer" Asha Bhosle. Other pairings include those with Mexican rockers Café Tacuba, American soprano Dawn Upshaw and British cabaret trio the Tiger Lillies. Live, Kronos has performed with Allen Ginsberg, Tom Waits and David Bowie, as well as eminent choreographers Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp. Steve Reich's Kronos-recorded Different Trains earned a GRAMMY, and as attendees of the salute learned in the video, Kronos' music can be heard in the films Requiem For A Dream, 21 Grams, Heat and True Stories, and television's "Sesame Street."
In his concluding remarks, Portnow said Kronos "has become known as one of the world's most fiercely adventurous concert groups, "but the quartet's vision and Zen-like openness to new music have remained constant." In keeping with Kronos' extraordinary commitment to expanding the range and context of the string quartet, the Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association (a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization) has founded the Kronos: Under 30 Project, a commissioning and composer-in-residence program for emerging composers below age 30. The initiative was launched in 2003, in conjunction with Kronos' own 30th anniversary, and ensures a thriving legacy of creative collaborations that is Kronos' singular place in music history.