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Review: Kronos Quartet @ Bristol Beacon

Taking to the majestic Beacon Hall, Kronos Quartet celebrated their 50th year of activity in an eccentricly professional style

By Bruno Bridger, Second Year English and Philosophy

One look at Kronos Quartet's discography is enough to question why the band aren't talked about more. The classical four piece have collaborated with the likes of David Bryne, Philip Glass and scored soundtracks for classic movies such as Mishima and Requiem for a Dream. Taking to the stage with imaginative covers and re-interpretations, the group pushed songs into almost unrecognisable areas of experimentation that seemed to turn them into wholly original compositions.

A band titling their 50th anniversary tour as ‘Fifty for the Future’ may initially seem to be an ambitious undertaking, though it doesn’t take long to realise Kronos Quartet are an act equally capable of both looking to the past, as well as to our most contemporary and cutting edge composers and producers, as a means of imagining progressive, alternative and exciting futures and musical horizons.

Playing a set comprised of both pieces firmly established within the canon of the Avant Garde, from luminaries such as Sun Ra, Terry Riley and Laurie Anderson, as well as composers at the forefront of the new, often electronic scene of experimental composition such as Jlin and Sigur Ros.

A particular highlight of the set at the Beacon, which was notably recorded by BBC Radio 3 for use in a future broadcast, was the performance of Laurie Anderson’s composition ‘Flow’, which made use of ethereal ambient atmospherics, to present the audience with a piece that had a wholly mediative effect upon the audience, as the sonics ebbed and flowed in the darkened ambience and acoustics of the Beacon Hall.

Preforming an encore of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’  produced an ecstatic and raucous reaction from the crowd, as the quartet reinforced their ability to reimagine old classics in exhilarating new adaptations, while still maintaining the energy which made the original piece so beloved.  

Leaving the performance, I thought of the power and necessity of context in music. In re-contextualising both old classics and future staples of music often at the experimental fringes of composition, Krono’s quartet brilliantly demonstrate they ways in which musical ideas remain powerful regardless of temporality or place, but rather as a tool which can be adapted throughout history. 

Featured Image: Benji Chapman

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