COURTESY JAY BLAKESBERG
Standing tall, the Kronos Quartet consists of, from left, new cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, and violinists John Sherba, Hank Dutt and David Harrington.
Kronos wears ‘eclectic’ well
It was a worst-case scenario for David Harrington. The founder-violinist of the Kronos Quartet was dropped off at the wrong hotel during a recent tour stop in Vancouver. So it's no surprise that he sounded winded as he answered his call to speak with the Star-Bulletin about the contemporary chamber group's Honolulu concert.
Part of the Honolulu Chamber Music Series
» Place: Orvis Auditorium, University of Hawaii at Manoa
» Time: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
» Tickets: $30; $18 students and Honolulu Symphony musicians
» Call: 944-2697 or online at etickethawaii.com
Yet he spoke with enthusiasm about the quartet's newest member and the eclectic program planned for Honolulu. In fact, "eclectic" is the word constantly used to describe one of the most forward-thinking ensembles in the world, one with a genre-busting reputation approaching rock-star status.
The quartet has a wide-ranging repertoire of about 500 commissioned pieces, as well as a long list of awards garnered over a 30-year-plus career.
The quartet was nominated for a Grammy in the Contemporary World Music Album category for "You've Stolen My Heart -- Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood," a collaboration with legendary Indian singer Asha Bhosle. Two selections from the album will be part of Saturday's program.
Harrington's fellow members, who have been with him from the get-go, are violinist John Sherba and violist Hank Dutt. The cellist seat has been occupied by women -- first Joan Jeanrenaud, then for seven years, Jennifer Culp. But now, for the first time, the quartet is all-male with its newest cellist, Jeffrey Zeigler.
"Jeff's been with us since June 2005," Harrington said, "and he's absolutely fearless. I first met him when he went to a talk given by Tanya Tagaq, an Inuit throat singer. She was ... showing people how to achieve that sound and, gutsy guy that he is, Jeff went up on stage and did it! ...
"The energy that he's brought to the group has gotten me on fire! He basically started off over that summer, and in a week-and-a-half, he learned 28 major pieces. I didn't think anybody could do it. And some of the musical adventures we've gotten into -- it's incredible."
BESIDES the Burman pieces -- specifically "Mehbooba Mehbooba (Beloved, O Beloved)" and "Nodir Pare Utthchhe Dhnoa (Smoke Rises Across the River)" -- the program will range from an Azerbaijani piece of quiet spirituality to works from some of Europe's interesting rock-oriented acts.
"I do try to keep my ears open 24 hours a day," Harrington said. "I get magnetized if I get music that I like ... whatever pulls me, I trust that instinct."
The evening will open with "Mugam Sayagi" by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, a piece the quartet has recorded twice. "When we first recorded it, the opening was so soft ... you could not hear the first several minutes of that piece. ... The piece goes from absolute softest to loudest, and I still like that dynamic range that explores as much subtlety and punch as possible."
When the new recording was released last year, that sonic dynamism was finally captured and, "furthermore, Franghiz was there in the studio, so it was wonderful to have her input."
Next is Sigur Rós' "Flugufrelsarinn (The Fly Freer)." "Sigur Rós, both in concert and on record, has created such a distinctive world of sound," Harrington said. "They've made something so hauntingly beautiful ... It's one of those perfect pieces of music, absolutely beautiful and inspiring."
After a brief excursion into electronica-inspired music courtesy Xploding Plastix and "The Order of Things," the first half of the concert concludes with the world premiere of a Derek Charke piece, "Cercle du Nord III." "It's music from the far North, a Canadian piece that takes its inspiration from Inuit throat singing, and the sounds of dog-sledding teams, wind and ice," Harrington said. "To play that in Hawaii takes a certain kind of humor."
Completing the program: "Raga Mishra Bhairavi," by sarangi master Ram Narayan and Steve Reich's "Triple Quartet," a work that includes pre-recorded tape that will sound like "three Kronos going at the same time."
"We hardly do the same concert twice in a row," Harrington said. "It's such an amazing time to be alive, to be a musician, to be able to participate in the world of music. I feel we've got like a workshop, a studio filled with so many amazing pieces of music. It's a toolbox from which we can build our concerts."