Classical music: Time catches up with Kronos

It's astonishing to think that one of the world's finest and certainly almost pioneering string quartets - the redoubtable Kronos (right) - celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. But it does; and, since those days in the early 1970s, when they started operating out of leader David Harrington's one-room apartment, Kronos has gone on almost single-handedly to revolutionise the quartet genre during the last quarter of a century.

"At the time we started, most composers weren't writing quartet music any more," says Harrington. "It seemed to be a dead art form - well, if not quite dead, at least dying off. So, right from the start, we simply activated a policy of getting more composers to write more quartets." It's a policy which has brought about a gamut of exciting new music; Kronos's active commissioning process has yielded a staggering 400 new string quartets from composers spanning at least four generations, from six continents

Yet, for the seemingly eternally youthful and laid-back Harrington and his no-less-illustrious trio of compatriots - John Sherba, Hank Dutt and Joan Jeanrenaud - the desire to carry on with their great work seems as vigorous as ever. "Kronos is very strong at present," comments Harrington. "It seems the more music we play, the more we want to play; and the more and varied imagery we have to work with, the more questions there still are to answer. But, above that even, we relish performing together as a close-knit team and communicating with an audience."

Kronos continues to prove it is perhaps the string quartet that most others don't reach when they round off their current South Bank visit with two highly contrasting concerts in the Royal Festival Hall today. To begin with, at 2.30pm, the foursome delivers its first European performance of their recently devised "Kronos for Children", giving children as young as seven a chance to make music alongside the quartet. "Again, to get our audience excited and involved in the music we make has always been a key Kronos brief," comments Harrington, "be that Feldman, Reich or Gorecki, on the one hand, or simple but appealing tunes on the other. In Kronos for Children, we've worked with instrument-builder Craig Woodson; each member of the audience will receive a plastic box, a cylindrical pipe and a length of fishing line. Out of those simple materials they can then make what we call a 'drumpet' - an instrument that can be plucked, percussed or blown down. The concert ends with a riotous composition for Kronos and massed drumpets."

Then, in the evening at 8pm, yet another new and radical Kronos collaboration is in the offing when the foursome teams up with the legendary Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks. "Taraf de Haidouks is one of my favourite groups," says Harrington. "They have this passionate earthy sound which veers, dangerously, between melancholy and ecstasy."

In a short first half, Kronos sets the gypsy scene by playing Bartok's pithy 3rd Quartet, which draws on Eastern European folk themes, as well as music by the currently cultish figure of Astor Piazzolla. After a set from Taraf de Haidouks, the two groups come together on stage. "It's yet another challenge for us," concludes Harrington, "but we have some interesting material to share and air." It's yet another potentially enthralling manifestation of the global village of music-making that Kronos, now celebrating a glorious Silver Jubilee, has helped so much to engender.

The Kronos Quartet perform Kronos for Children (2.30pm today) and with Taraif de Hadouks (8pm tonight) at the South Bank Centre, SE1 (0171-960 4242)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

    £7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

    £27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

    Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'