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Electronic/Dance - Released February 16, 2018 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
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Classical - Released February 5, 2007 | Nonesuch

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Classical - Released June 12, 2015 | Nonesuch

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles de Classica
"[T]he highlight of the disc featuring new material winds up being a recent Kronos recording of 'Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector'..."
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Film Soundtracks - Released December 8, 2016 | Nonesuch

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Electronic/Dance - Released February 16, 2018 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released October 20, 1998 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released January 9, 2012 | Nonesuch

Booklet
Vladimir Martynov, born in 1946, is one of the cohort of composers that includes Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli, and Valentin Silvestrov, who grew up under the influence of the former Soviet Union and abandoned the modernism of their youth to embrace a tonal language of greater simplicity with an aesthetic informed by an intimate spirituality. In spite of the similarities in their backgrounds and journeys, each has a distinctive sound, and Martynov, who is perhaps the least well-known in the West, brings a new perspective to the tradition of European music shaped by mysticism and minimalism. On the surface Martynov's music doesn't have an immediate resemblance to minimalism (apart from the directness of its tonal language), but like minimalism it uses repetition as a structural element and it is concerned with the perception of the passage of time, which it tends to stretch out with almost unbearable poignancy into what commentator Greg Dubinsky describes as "a prolonged state of grace." His harmonic vocabulary is characterized by the fecund tonal richness of post-Romanticism without the angst or decadence sometimes associated with the music of that era. The two composers Martynov references in the pieces recorded here are Schubert and Mahler, both of whom had immense expressive range but were especially noted for the pure, unsentimental sweetness they could summon. Der Abschied (The Farewell), written in memory of the composer's father, draws on material from Das Lied von der Erde. It opens with a bleak, sinking desolation, but over the course of its 40 minutes the music blossoms into an unabashed hyper-Romanticism of unguarded expressiveness and intense sweetness. Martynov wrote his Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished) for the current members of the Kronos plus Joan Jeanrenaud, the group's original cellist. Its two movements take as their core material the rising octave figure of Schubert's great C major Quintet, and the composer interweaves other themes from the Schubert throughout. Martynov originally wrote The Beatitudes for chorus, but arranged it especially for Kronos. The performances are wrenchingly heartfelt, steeped more in the kind of old-school Romanticism of groups like the Budapest Quartet than is typical for Kronos, but the approach is utterly appropriate for the music. Nonesuch's sound is clean, warmly immediate, and vibrant. Martynov could provide an ideal entryway into contemporary music for listeners open to new works and new ideas, but who tend to be shy of dissonance. Highly recommended.
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Classical - Released June 23, 2015 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released May 4, 2018 | Cantaloupe Music

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Classical - Released April 8, 2014 | Nonesuch

Booklet
A Thousand Thoughts, whose title comes from the traditional Swedish melody that opens the program, is not a release of new material but a compilation of prior Kronos Quartet performances that draw on international materials. They go back as far as 1989, but the majority come from after 2000, when this aspect of the group's repertoire has become more important. As such, your reaction to them may well depend on whether you think this kind of experiment represents a laudable curiosity or a drive-by approach to world music. Even the detractors, though, would do well to note the following positives. The Kronos Quartet have been highly influential in this regard, as they have in so many others, and it's due to their efforts that it's commonplace nowadays to hear tango music (as you do here) or something similar in a string quartet recital. The Kronos do not simply rely on standards that fit the quartet medium but often feature representatives of the ethnic traditions involved, pushing themselves a bit to enter into exotic sound worlds. (Especially successful in this regard is the concluding version of "Danny Boy," sung by the late Texas country singer and yodeler Don Walser, the so-called Pavarotti of the Plains; this version was available on one of Walser's albums, but is not exactly a common item.) The sound engineering associated with the Kronos has always been high-class, and this collection of live and studio tracks recorded over almost a 25-year period holds together as a unit quite well. Likewise, the quartet itself has maintained a consistent sound over the several changes in personnel represented here. This has the potential to serve as a good sampler for those interested in the ethnomusicological side of contemporary chamber music. ~ James Manheim
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Classical - Released June 16, 2015 | Nonesuch

Booklet
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Classical - Released February 21, 1992 | Nonesuch

When released, Pieces of Africa was subject to some of the same "cultural imperialist" criticism that had been more successfully leveled at performers like David Byrne and Paul Simon. The album consists of commissions from African composers working at varying distances from European conventions. But whereas Byrne and Simon arguably used the music of Brazil or South Africa as backgrounds over which to display their own egos, the Kronos Quartet's members managed to sublimate themselves in service to the compositions, never giving the listener any sense of condescension. All of which is to say that Pieces of Africa is a very beautiful recording with several superb individual works. Zimbabwe's Dumisani Maraire's opening piece, "Mai Nozipo," with the composer accompanying the quartet on drums, is a rousing, triumphant anthem with a resonant melodic line that will long linger. Thematically, most of the pieces draw on African sources, very clearly in the case of the Arabic-infused songs of Hassan Hakmoun and the great Sudanese composer Hamza el Din. Unsurprisingly, South African Kevin Volan's "White Man Sleeps" comes closest to European traditions, though even this piece, which is gorgeous and inspired throughout, draws inspiration from native environmental sounds. The disc closes with another composition by Maraire, with an accompanying gospel choir making explicit the link between Africa's music and that of the American South. Pieces of Africa teems with beguiling melodies, making it one of this quartet's more accessible projects and also one of its best. ~ Brian Olewnick
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Classical - Released September 3, 2007 | Nonesuch

Classical - Released September 30, 2016 | Cantaloupe Music

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Classical - Released August 15, 1997 | Nonesuch - WBR

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Folk/Americana - Released June 9, 2017 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released May 18, 2009 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released April 7, 2000 | Nonesuch

On their 2000 release, the Kronos Quartet has appeared with an album worthy of their name. On Caravan, the quartet uses songs from the world round, with all of them rearranged as needed to fit a string quartet. There are compositions from Yugoslavia ("Pannonia Boundless"), Portugal ("Cancao Verdes Anos" and "Romance No. 1"), India ("Aaj Ki Raat"), Mexico ("La Muerte Chiquita"), Turkey ("Turceasca"), Romania, Hungary, Iran, Lebanon, and Argentina. There are guest artists left and right on the album: Hindustani tabla great Zakir Hussain aids on the Bollywood work "Aaj Ki Raat" (Tonight's the Night). Taraf de Haidouks, a gypsy ensemble, provides extra violins and accordions on "Turceasca" to make the work outright exhilarating. Lebanese nay player Ali Jihad Racy appears on his composition, as does Iranian kemancheh player Kayhan Kalhor. The Kronos Quartet has shown themselves to be quite adept at ethnic musics (though Westernized thoroughly by the time the quartet is through with them) since Pieces of Africa, and possibly even better than their American based works (see Music of Bill Evans album). That part still continues. They again use stunning virtuosity to make a tango play through smoothly on this album, as tangos almost seem to be a specialty for the group. There is quite a rough spot on the album on Terry Riley's composition, "Cortejo Funebre en el Monte Diablo." The work sounds like some kind of classicized version of a cross between industrial punk and video game background music -- needless to say, not the greatest work ever done by the group. To end the album, the quartet takes on an interpretation of surf guitar king Dick Dale's hit "Misirlou," adapting it to their format with surprising efficiency. Overall, the music is for the most part relatively incredible, despite the rough spot on Riley's composition. Kronos Quartet are occasionally on-again-off-again, but here, they're almost entirely on. ~ Adam Greenberg
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Classical - Released April 5, 2005 | Nonesuch - WBR

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Classical - Released October 14, 2016 | Nonesuch

There is no string quartet that has ever been written that can compare length and diversity with Terry Riley's Salome Dances for Peace. Morton Feldman has written a longer one, but it is confined to his brilliant field of notational relationships and open tonal spaces. Riley's magnum opus, which dwarfs Beethoven's longest quartet by three, is a collection of so many different kinds of music, many of which had never been in string quartet form before and even more of which would -- or should -- never be rubbing up against one another in the same construct. Riley is a musical polymath, interested in music from all periods and cultures: there are trace elements of jazz and blues up against Indian classical music, North African Berber folk melodies, Native American ceremonial music, South American shamanistic power melodies -- and many more. The reason they are brought together in this way is for the telling of an allegorical story. In Riley's re-examining Salome's place in history, he finds a way to redeem both her and the world through her talent. Two thousand years after her original infamous dance she is summoned by the Great Spirit who sees her as the epitome of the feminine force and needs her talent to win back peace for the world, which has been stolen by dark forces. The quartet that Kronos takes on here has five movements, but within each movement are sections where the music changes to illustrate certain themes in Salome's journey to dance for peace. In the first two movements alone there are a total of 15 such sections. Some of them move through Middle Eastern desert themes and others through the Old West as portrayed by Aaron Copland. The genius in such a work is not so much in having so many ideas and putting them into one pot, but in writing transitions for a group of musicians to make them believable and seamless. In Riley's quartet, the journeying from summoning to the recessional at the end, movement is constant: action, contemplation, and meditation all take place on the move. Kronos' sense of drama and pace is inherent in everything they do and so the theater involved here (this was originally conceived of as a ballet) is not a stretch for them. But the emotional changes involved in the solemnity of the cause -- which Riley's mythical undertaking takes absolutely seriously -- that move from great seriousness to righteous anger to being in awe of the Divine and the urge to give in to various temptations are all illustrated by rhythmic, tonal, and timbral changes within the score. Modes shift from interval to interval without seam, hesitation, or mindless transition. Riley takes all of the musical ideas he holds dear, places them in the context of all the world's musical styles he holds sacred, and then creates for them an allegory that has lasting implications for how people view not only history and their role in the present, but how they conduct their view of the world around them forever more. That this is done without a lyric or being autodidactic is a small miracle. That he and the Kronos Quartet have produced a string quartet at the end of the twentieth century that stands as one of the most sophisticated and musically challenging in the history of Western music is an enigma. ~ Thom Jurek

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