Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kronos Quartet Takes Listeners on Inspiring Journey

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kronos Quartet Takes Listeners on Inspiring Journey

Article excerpt

The cover of The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, a new CD from the Kronos Quartet, shows a "marriage charm" dating from the 18th century, arranging Hebrew letters from the Song of Songs into a pattern of elegant, almost musical gracefulness.

The cover of Ghost Opera, another new CD from Kronos, shows a cylindrical vessel from the 4th century BC, decorated with rhinoceros figures and offset with a swath of flowing Chinese calligraphy.

Both covers are strikingly beautiful, and so are the discs inside the packages - one decorated with a "wheel of letters" from 16th-century Poland, the other with a densely configured Chinese compass. What all these artworks illustrate is Kronos's vital commitment to a project nobody else has pursued in quite the same way: making the production and performance of modern music a truly international, historical, multicultural, and interdisciplinary effort. Energy, enthusiasm, entertainment Such a project might have acquired pretentious overtones if a less engaging group had undertaken it. But from its beginnings, Kronos has always put energy, enthusiasm, and sheer entertainment value at the head of its agenda. Its new discs, both on Nonesuch, remind listeners again why it stands near the forefront of the contemporary chamber-music scene. As wildly different as they are in origin and tone, both recordings find Kronos at the peak of its power to move an audience with music we might never have appreciated if this adventurous group weren't on the lookout for new material. Not that Kronos dredged up either piece from some almost-forgotten past. Osvaldo Golijov, who composed "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind," grew up in Argentina during the '60s and '70s before moving to Jerusalem and then Massachusetts, where he lives now. The inspiration for this work was a rabbi who declared 800 years ago that everything in the universe stems from the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Taking this notion in imaginative directions, Golijov composed music that reminded him not only of Hebrew but also Aramaic and Yiddish, other languages that have played key roles in Jewish history. …

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