13th March 2023
Seeing the Kronos Quartet on what is apparently to be their final appearance in Adelaide was certainly something to savor.
Following on from their appearance at Womad the previous day, the quartet presented a varied and challenging program, as one would expect from one of the world’s most adventurous quartets.
In only the second time in the 50 year history of the quartet, they opened with George Crumb’s Vietnam war inspired “Black Angels”. More than just playing the work, this was almost a theatrical performance, as can be seen from the above photo. Striking the occasional gong and requiring all but the cellist to bow tuned water glasses, the members silently moved about the stage, hanging their instruments on hooks suspended from above. But in the end it really is all about the music and in this respect the quartet were simply brilliant, coaxing all manner of sounds that the score demanded.
Vrebalov’s “Electric Rhymes” followed, written as a sequel to “Black Angels”, utilized the same quartet format, first violin, cello, viola, second violin and even tuned water glasses But this was no copy, an utterly original and moving work.
The theatrical aspect continued with the premiere of an Australian work, BEAK, by Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor. Written in response to bird song, the quartet played to the sound of beautiful bird singing. Then the quartet stood with backs to the audience and played to the score of Penderecki’s ”Quartetto per archi” as it raced across a very large screen. Very effective. Strangely, this was not a distraction to the music. This reviewer found it an absorbing experience.
Finally, and as with the Womad performance, they were joined by Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat. Her emotional singing of songs highlighting Iranian poets was complimented to perfection by the quartet. Superb.
The final Adelaide appearance of this almost legendary quartet was bittersweet. Sadly they will not grace a stage here again, but they left us with an enduring memory following this remarkable performance.