Their first release since 2009's critically acclaimed Floodplain, Music of Vladimir Martynov includes three works written for Kronos by the leading Russian composer: The Beatitudes (1998, rescored for Kronos, 2006), Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished) (2009), and Der Abschied (2006). Kronos' artistic director and founder David Harrington says Martynov's music "straddles various points of musical history and time; the music seems to me to reflect and absorb humanity in such a beautiful way."
The Kronos Quartet continues to broaden the repertoire for string quartet beyond the Western European tradition with Floodplain, an album of music all written or arranged for the ensemble. This album moves the ensemble even further afield from the conventional quartet; the players frequently double on folk instruments, and in one of the pieces they don't use their own instruments at all, but newly invented ones, created especially for this album. The selection of music is broadly eclectic and includes arrangements of a popular Arab song from 1940 and an ancient Christian hymn from Lebanon, a collaboration with a Palestinian electronic ensemble, and an original piece by a Serbian-American composer. The album has a number of guest artists, including the Azerbaijani Alim Qasimov Ensemble, Terry Riley playing tambura and Wu Man playing electric sitar.
Aheym Is an astonishing collaboration between National guitarist Bryce Dessner and journeyman new music string quartet the Kronos Quartet. Performing four compositions by Dessner,The Kronos Quartet champion an exciting young composer, continuing a history of presenting new and important works and composers that stretches back to their founding in 1973.
This late-'80s work finds the minimalist composer mixing acoustic and taped material to great effect. The disc's centerpiece is "Different Trains," a work that frames Reich's impressions of his boyhood train trips between his mother in Los Angeles and his father in New York; Reich also intersperses references to the much more harrowing train rides Jews were forced to take to Nazi concentration camps. Using the fine playing of the Kronos Quartet as a base, Reich layers the work with the taped train musings of his governess, a retired Pullman porter, and various Holocaust survivors – vintage train sounds from the '30s and '40s add to the riveting arrangement. And for some nice contrast, Reich recruits guitarist Pat Metheny to create a similarly momentous piece in "Electric Counterpoint" (Metheny plays live over a multi-tracked tape of ten guitars and two electric basses). Two fine works by Reich in his prime.