Kronos Quartet Turns Fifty at Carnegie Hall

Celebration is a Cause for Joy

By: - Nov 07, 2023

The Kronos String Quartet and their collaborators, among them Carnegie Hall which presented this evening, celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of this radical and exciting group.  

Kronos String Quartet consists of only four humans, but its presence in our lives is like a big river, the Amazon or Mississippi. It takes us up in its waves and carries forward each and every notable talent in the realm of contemporary music, fifty years of non-stop creativity and musical excellence. And of sound, that complex, smooth, deep, and blistering sound rich in overtones. It's addictive: you listen and want more. And Kronos never fails to deliver. Like a river, it never stops.

The gala concert-celebration was a real feast. It brought in a crowd of connoisseurs, with many young and creative people among the spectators. The stage was full of amazingly youthful musicians of all ages, some very famous, others on their way to fame. 

Highlights of the concert included Wu Man sending musical messages from her pipa, Brian Carpenter's rendition of  “Choo Choo Lullaby”  by Moondog, a fixture on nearby Sixth Avenue for years, and Jake Blount with Jacob Garchik on the tuba singing “We Stole and Sold  from Africa.”

"Nothing Left But Their Names" (from "Landfall") performed by Laurie Anderson accompanied by the Kronos Quartet. This multimedia piece is a tribute to the extinguished species of animals. It is pensive, poetic, and sad. Anderson remains one of America's most daring creative voices.

Improvisational singer and composer Tanya Tagaq performed "Sivunitinni", "Colonizer" (remix). She was a flamboyant and wholehearted presence,  the beauty of her voice overwhelming.

"Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector" by Terry Riley was the last piece in the concert.  The Aizuri, Attica and PUBLIC quartets were on stage with So Percussion and Bang on a Can All Stars.  Many of the evening’s composers like Gabriella Smith and Michael Gordon joined the festivities. Onto the stage trooped other musicians who have collaborated with Kronos over the years, Missy Mazzoli and Ellen Reid joining the rattle shaking and toe-tapping.  All-hands-on- deck produced an immense, heavenly sound of dozens of instruments and voices. Mr. Riley connected live from Tokyo to congratulate Kronos. 

The title draws from Riley's notion that there might be a collector who goes around the planet each day, gathering all dreams. 

The Kronos Quartet is one such collector.

This celebration for Kronos reveals the multi-dimensional support Carnegie Hall gives to artists. Kronos speaks about the Carnegie commission they received to create a monumental educational project, Kronos Fifty for the Future.  Through this project, Kronos commissioned 50 new string quartet works designed for students and emerging professionals and written by composers from all around the world.

Carnegie offers this wide-ranging support to many artists, enabling them to grow before the eyes and ears of an audience. It is not said often enough that the solid financial footing on which Carnegie stands creates an environment where staff can focus on keeping music live for the future. Robert F. Smith is Chairman of the Board of Trustees. A Black man, and the son of two educators, he grew up in Denver, Colorado, and to this day buses school children in the city to special events. He purchased the middle-class Black resort Lincoln Hills, one of the first getaways for the Denver Black population, about half an hour out of the city.  He caught the world's attention when he addressed a Morehouse College graduating class and announced that all their college tuition loans were going to be paid off by his family. He knows whereof he speaks.  He acts on behalf of his community of origin and has made the path to inclusion a dynamic one at Carnegie. What could be more All-American than being married to a former Playboy Bunny.   

Surely Carnegie Hall is the crown jewel of music organizations in  New York and a powerful example to other institutions.