Kronos Quartet

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Kronos Quartet
Kronos Quartet by Sachyn Mital.jpg
Kronos Quartet at Lincoln Center, 2013
Background information
Origin Seattle, Washington, United States
Genres Contemporary classical
Occupation(s) Chamber ensemble
Years active1973–present
  • David Harrington
  • John Sherba
  • Hank Dutt
  • Sunny Yang
Past members
  • Jim Shallenberger
  • Tim Killian
  • Walter Gray
  • Ella Gray
  • Roy Lewis
  • Joan Jeanrenaud
  • Jennifer Culp
  • Jeffrey Zeigler

The Kronos Quartet is an American string quartet based in San Francisco. They have been in existence with a rotating membership of musicians for over forty years. The quartet covers a very broad range of musical genres, including contemporary classical music. More than 900 works have been written for them.

String quartet musical ensemble of four string players

A string quartet refers to (a) a musical ensemble consisting of four string players – two violin players, a viola player and a cellist – or (b) a piece written to be performed by such a group. The string quartet is one of the most prominent chamber ensembles in classical music, with most major composers, from the mid 18th century onwards, writing string quartets.

Contemporary classical music is a relative term that refers to music of the "present day", the definition of which continually changes over time. At the beginning of the 21st century, it commonly referred to the post-1945 modern forms of post-tonal music after the death of Anton Webern, and included serial music, electronic music, experimental music, and minimalist music. Newer forms of music include spectral music, and post-minimalism.

Commission (art) hiring and payment for the creation of a piece of art

In art, a commission is the act of requesting the creation of a piece, often on behalf of another. Artwork may be commissioned by private individuals, by the government, or businesses. Commissions often resemble endorsement or sponsorship.



The quartet was founded by violinist David Harrington in Seattle, Washington. Its first performance was in November 1973. [1] Since 1978, the quartet has been based in San Francisco, California. The longest-running combination of performers (from 1978 to 1999) had Harrington and John Sherba on violin, Hank Dutt on viola, and Joan Jeanrenaud on cello. In 1999, Joan Jeanrenaud left Kronos because she was "eager for something new"; [2] she was replaced by Jennifer Culp [3] who, in turn, left in 2005 and was replaced by Jeffrey Zeigler. In June 2013, Zeigler was replaced by Sunny Yang. [4] With over forty studio albums to their credit and having performed worldwide, they were called "probably the most famous 'new music' group in the world" [5] and were praised in philosophical studies of music for the inclusiveness of their repertoire. [6]

Violin bowed string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths

The violin, sometimes known as a fiddle, is a wooden string instrument in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family in regular use. Smaller violin-type instruments exist, including the violino piccolo and the kit violin, but these are virtually unused. The violin typically has four strings, usually tuned in perfect fifths with notes G3, D4, A4, E5, and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings, though it can also be played by plucking the strings with the fingers (pizzicato) and by striking the strings with the wooden side of the bow.

Seattle City in Washington, United States

Seattle is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 744,955 residents as of 2018, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. According to U.S. Census data released in 2018, the Seattle metropolitan area's population stands at 3.94 million, and ranks as the 15th largest in the United States. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2016, Seattle was again the fastest-growing major U.S. city, with a 3.1% annual growth rate. Seattle is the northernmost large city in the United States.

Washington (state) State of the United States of America

Washington, officially the State of Washington, is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Named for George Washington, the first U.S. president, the state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which was ceded by Britain in 1846 in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute. The state, which is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, by Oregon to the south, by Idaho to the east, and the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north, was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. Olympia is the state capital; the state's largest city is Seattle. Washington is often referred to as Washington State to distinguish it from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C..

By the time the quartet celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary in 1999, they had a repertoire of over 600 works, which included 400 string quartets written for them, more than 3,000 performances, seven first-prize ASCAP awards, Edison Awards in classical and popular music, and had sold more than 1.5 million records. [7]

Edison Award Dutch annual music prize

The Edison Award is an annual Dutch music prize awarded for outstanding achievements in the music industry. It is one of the oldest music awards in the world, having been presented since 1960.

30th anniversary

When Kronos turned 30, in 2003, they decided on a commissioning process for composers under the age of 30, in the hope of bringing some of the talented young composers to light. The program, called the Under 30 Project, is now run in cooperation with Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Montalvo Arts Center. The first recipient was Alexandra du Bois (at the time a student at Indiana University, later a Juilliard School graduate), [8] followed by Felipe Perez Santiago (born in Mexico in 1973), [9] and Dan Visconti (born in Illinois in 1982); [10] in 2007, Israeli composer Aviya Kopelman became the fourth. [11]

Carnegie Hall concert hall in New York City

Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east side of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.

University of California, Berkeley Public university in California, USA

The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868 and serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has since grown to instruct over 40,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines.

Montalvo Arts Center historic house in Saratoga, California

The Montalvo Arts Center is a non-profit center for the arts in Saratoga, California, United States. Open to the public, Montalvo comprises a cultural and arts center, a park, hiking trails and the historic Villa Montalvo, an Italian Mediterranean Revival mansion nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The mansion and estate were constructed from 1912–14 by California statesman and businessman James Duval Phelan. After Phelan's death, the entire estate was donated to California as a park and then a cultural and arts center as it exists today. The arts center maintains the estate in partnership with Santa Clara County. The mansion is a historic landmark, and in 1978 it was awarded inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

40th anniversary

To celebrate the fortieth year of the organization, the Kronos Quartet decided to return to Seattle, the city in which they first played, and work in collaboration with Seattle's Degenerate Art Ensemble to create a piece incorporating music, dance and video. [1] They celebrated their 40th anniversary with a sold-out performance at Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, in December 2013. The same year, Michael Giacchino, a soundtrack composer who often names his pieces with puns, published a piece named after them as a part of the soundtrack to Star Trek Into Darkness (the name of the piece is "The Kronos Wartet"), for a scene that takes place on the fictional planet "Kronos" [12] (also spelled "Qo'noS").

Degenerate Art Ensemble is a Seattle-based multi-art performance company whose work is inspired by punk, comics, cinema, nightmares and fairy tales driven by live music and visceral movement theater and dance. The group was founded and is co-directed by dancer/performer/director Haruko Nishimura and composer/conductor/performer Joshua Kohl. Degenerate Art Ensemble is both a multi-discipline performance company and a band, having performed major dance and live music works, orchestral concerts, rock shows and site-specific street spectacles.

Zellerbach Hall performing arts center on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley

Zellerbach Hall is a multi-venue performance facility on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, west of Lower Sproul Plaza. It was designed by architect and professor Vernon DeMars and completed in 1968. The facility consists of two primary performance spaces: the 1,984-seat Zellerbach Auditorium, and the 500-seat Zellerbach Playhouse.

Michael Giacchino American film / television composer

Michael Giacchino is an American composer of music for films, television and video games. He has received an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and three Grammy Awards.

New music, contemporary classical

On stage with Laurie Anderson, after performing LANDFALL at the Harris Theater on March 17, 2015 Laurie Anderson amidst the Kronos Quartet in Chicago after performing LANDFALL 2015-03-17 20.53.41 (16851029595).jpg
On stage with Laurie Anderson, after performing LANDFALL at the Harris Theater on March 17, 2015

Over 900 pieces have been created for the Kronos Quartet, which has a long history of commissioning new works. [13] They have worked with many minimalist composers including John Adams, Arvo Pärt, George Crumb, Henryk Górecki, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Kevin Volans; collaborators hail from a diversity of countries – Kaija Saariaho from Finland, Pēteris Vasks from Latvia, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh from Azerbaijan, Homayun Sakhi from Afghanistan, Victoria Vita Polevá from Ukraine and Fernando Otero, [14] Astor Piazzolla, [15] and Osvaldo Golijov from Argentina. Some of Kronos' string-quartet arrangements were published in 2007. [16]

John Adams (composer) American composer

John Coolidge Adams is an American composer, clarinetist, and conductor of classical music and opera, with strong roots in minimalism.

Arvo Pärt Estonian composer of classical and religious music

Arvo Pärt is an Estonian composer of classical and religious music. Since the late 1970s, Pärt has worked in a minimalist style that employs his self-invented compositional technique, tintinnabuli. Pärt's music is in part inspired by Gregorian chant. His most performed works include Fratres (1977), Spiegel im Spiegel (1978), and Für Alina (1976). Since 2011 Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world.

George Crumb American composer

George Henry Crumb or George Henry Jr. Crumb is an American composer of modern classical and avant-garde music. He is known as an explorer of unusual timbres, alternative forms of notation, and extended instrumental and vocal techniques, which obtained his innovative techniques in the use of vivid sonorities. Examples include seagull effect for the cello, metallic vibrato for the piano, and using a mallet to play the strings of a double bass, among numerous others.

Diverse genres

I've always wanted the string quartet to be vital, and energetic, and alive, and cool, and not afraid to kick ass and be absolutely beautiful and ugly if it has to be. But it has to be expressive of life. To tell the story with grace and humor and depth. And to tell the whole story, if possible.

—David Harrington [17]

Kronos covers a very broad range of musical genres: Mexican folk, experimental, pre-classical early music, movie soundtracks ( Requiem for a Dream , Heat , The Fountain ), jazz and tango. Kronos has also recorded adaptations of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze", Sigur Rós's "Flugufrelsarinn", Television's "Marquee Moon", Raymond Scott's "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals", and Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right".

Kronos has also worked with a variety of global musicians, including Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle; [18] Mexican-American painter Gronk; American soprano Dawn Upshaw; jazz composer/performer Pat Metheny; Mexican rockers Café Tacuba; Azerbaijani mugam singer Alim Qasimov; and the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks among others.

Kronos has performed live with the poet Allen Ginsberg, Astor Piazzolla, The National, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Björk, and has recorded with Nelly Furtado, Rokia Traoré, Joan Armatrading, Brazilian electronica artist Amon Tobin, Texas yodeler Don Walser, Faith No More, Tiger Lillies and David Grisman.

On the 1998 Dave Matthews Band album Before These Crowded Streets , Kronos Quartet performed on the tracks "Halloween" and "The Stone". They also recorded for the 2007 Nine Inch Nails remix album, Year Zero Remixed doing a rendition of the track "Another Version of the Truth"". They also performed Lee Brooks' score for the short film 2081 , based on the Kurt Vonnegut short story "Harrison Bergeron."

In 2009, the quartet contributed an acoustic version of Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night" for the AIDS benefit album Dark Was the Night produced by the Red Hot Organization.

In 2017, the quartet performed as featured artists on the songs "Lost Light" and "Journey" on the soundtrack to the videogame Destiny 2 .

Awards and recognition

Greeting the audience after a 2005 performance Kronos Quartet.jpg
Greeting the audience after a 2005 performance

Le Diapason d'Or de Mai

Rolf Schock Prize

Musical America

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance

Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance

National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences

Polar Music Prize

WOMEX Awards

Kronos Quartet recording at BBC Radio, 2012 Kronos Quartet (on In Tune, BBC Radio, 2012).jpg
Kronos Quartet recording at BBC Radio, 2012


Published music


Related Research Articles

Osvaldo Noé Golijov is an Argentine composer of classical music and music professor, known for his vocal and orchestral work.

<i>Requiem for a Dream</i> (soundtrack) 2000 soundtrack album by Clint Mansell and Kronos Quartet

Requiem for a Dream is the soundtrack album from the 2000 film Requiem for a Dream. It was composed by Clint Mansell and performed by the Kronos Quartet. The music for the film is noted for its minimalist qualities in which it uses constant harmonies, a steady pulse, and often variation of musical phrases to drive a point. The album is best known for the track "Lux Aeterna."

<i>Black Angels</i> (album) 1990 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Black Angels is a 1990 album by the string quartet Kronos Quartet. It includes, and was named after the George Crumb's 1970 composition Black Angels; the composition which had inspired David Harrington to found the Kronos Quartet in 1973.

Kronos Quartet discography

The discography of the Kronos Quartet includes 43 studio albums, two compilations, five soundtracks, and 29 contributions to other artists' records. The Kronos Quartet plays classical, pop, rock, jazz, folk, world and contemporary classical music and was founded in 1973 by violinist David Harrington. Since 1978, they are based in San Francisco, California. Since 1985, the quartet's music has been released on Nonesuch Records.

<i>Terry Riley: Requiem for Adam</i> 2001 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Terry Riley: Requiem for Adam is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet. The music was composed by Terry Riley, commissioned by the quartet; the album is a requiem for Adam Harrington, the son of Kronos co-founder David Harrington.

Joan Jeanrenaud

Joan Jeanrenaud, néeDutcher, is an American cellist. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, she played with the Kronos Quartet from 1978 until 1999, when, after a sabbatical, she left to pursue a solo career and collaborations with other artists, in part due to being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She has staged and recorded solo performance pieces, playing the cello in tandem with electronic instruments. Her first solo album, Metamorphosis, was described by Greg Cahill in Strings as "visceral, hypnotic, and often compelling."

<i>Kronos Quartet Performs Alfred Schnittke: The Complete String Quartets</i> 1998 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet Performs Alfred Schnittke: The Complete String Quartets is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet. The double CD contains all four of Russian composer Alfred Schnittke's "startling" string quartets. String Quartet No.3 was recorded and released in 1988; the other three were recorded between 1994 and 1996 and released in 1998.

<i>Kronos Quartet</i> (album) 1986 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet, the first of their albums on Nonesuch Records. It contains compositions by Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe, Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen, American composer Philip Glass, and American/Mexican composer Conlon Nancarrow. The last track is Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze."

<i>Five Tango Sensations</i> 1991 studio album by Kronos Quartet & Astor Piazzolla

Five Tango Sensations is a suite of works (Asleep—Loving—Anxiety—Despertar—Fear) for bandoneón and string quartet written in 1989 by Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla. It was premiered in New York that year and recorded immediately afterwards by the Kronos Quartet and the composer, who played the bandoneón. The record was one of a set of three internationally tinged albums released simultaneously, the Argentine music of this album being accompanied by the music of South-African composer Kevin Volans on Kevin Volans: Hunting:Gathering and the music of Polish composer Witold Lutosławski on Witold Lutosławski: String Quartet.

Pieces of Africa is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet, containing works commissioned by the quartet, written by seven African composers.

<i>Henryk Mikolaj Górecki: Already It Is Dusk/"Lerchenmusik"</i> 1991 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Henryk Mikolaj Górecki: Already It Is Dusk/"Lerchenmusik" is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet and the London Sinfonietta. The two compositions are by Polish composer Henryk Górecki. The Kronos Quartet play "Already It Is Dusk," which they would reissue on Henryk Górecki: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2.

<i>Witold Lutosławski: String Quartet</i> 1991 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Witold Lutosławski: String Quartet is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet, containing String quartet by Polish Witold Lutosławski composed in 1964 and first performed in 1965. This string quartet is an example of aleatory music, that is, music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed work's realization is left to the determination of its performer(s). As Gerald Gold noted in a review of the Kronos album in The New York Times, "the Lutoslawski composition integrates notated music with chance performance."

<i>Henryk Górecki: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2</i> 1993 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Henryk Górecki: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet, with two compositions by Polish composer Henryk Górecki. The Kronos Quartet had recorded "Already It Is Dusk", his first string quartet, in 1990 and released it on Henryk Mikolaj Górecki: Already It Is Dusk/"Lerchenmusik". The Kronos Quartet recorded and released all three of Górecki's string quartets, the third and last in 2007, on Henryk Górecki: String Quartet No. 3 .

<i>Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet</i> 1993 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet and Aki Takahashi (piano). It is a recording of one of Morton Feldman's final works.

<i>Tan Dun: Ghost Opera</i> 1997 studio album by Kronos Quartet and Wu Man

Tan Dun: Ghost Opera is an album by the Kronos Quartet and Wu Man. The album contains five compositions by Chinese composer Tan Dun written in 1994 for string quartet and pipa. As of 2011, the composition was still on the Quartet's program.

<i>Early Music (Lachrymæ Antiquæ)</i> 1997 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Early Music is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet, containing 21 compositions, many of which were written, arranged, or transcribed for the quartet. The subtitle is from Dowland's Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares of 1604.

<i>Dracula</i> (album) 1999 soundtrack album by Kronos Quartet

Dracula is a soundtrack performed by the Kronos Quartet, with music composed by Philip Glass, for the 1931 film Dracula.

<i>Henryk Górecki: String Quartet No. 3 (...songs are sung)</i> 2007 studio album by Kronos Quartet

Henryk Górecki: String Quartet No. 3 is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet, containing the last string quartet by Polish composer Henryk Górecki. The Kronos Quartet had recorded Górecki's other string quartets on Henryk Mikolaj Górecki: Already It Is Dusk/"Lerchenmusik" (1991) and on Henryk Górecki: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 (1993).

Short Stories is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet, containing works by Elliott Sharp, Willie Dixon, John Oswald, John Zorn, Henry Cowell, Steven Mackey, Scott Johnson, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Pandit Pran Nath.

Aviya Kopelman is an Israeli composer and pianist.


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