Kronos makes long-awaited return to Columbus

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Chamber Music Columbus welcomes the Kronos Quartet to the Southern Theatre Saturday, Jan. 19. Tickets are $15-$40. Visit cmcolumbus.org.
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2013 marks 40 years since David Harrington founded Kronos Quartet, which would become one of the most eclectic, celebrated and influential musical ensembles of its time.

Official celebrations begin this summer.

Meantime, Kronos will make its first return to Columbus in more than a decade Saturday, Jan. 19. It comes on the heels of a show at Phoenix's Musical Instrument Museum, where they are opening a new Kronos-themed exhibition.

"It's one of the coolest places anywhere. It feels pretty good" to have Kronos featured there, Harrington said.

Of course, 40 years ago in Seattle, Harrington couldn't have imagined.

"At that point, I was just hoping to do it the next week," he joked when asked if he had any inkling his group might still be working 40 years later.

"It takes a lot of stamina, work and focus, from a whole lot of people, to get a musical group going and keep it going. It's more than just the four of us on stage, but our families, friends, management," Harrington said.

"I wouldn't trade it for the world as far as what I could do with my life."

Nor has he had to, because the world has, in many respects, come to Kronos throughout the ensemble's history, and, indeed, Kronos has traveled the world.

Inspired by a single piece of music -- George Crumb's Black Angels, an unorthodox work featuring electronic effect, spoken word and bowed water glasses, of which Harrington said "I just had to perform it" -- Kronos' mission became to seek out vanguard, envelope-pushing repertoire and composers.

The result is as broad, diverse and compelling a repertoire as exists in chamber music, a repertoire that includes pieces by 20th-century masters such as Bartok and Webern, modern composers from around the world, arrangements of music by jazz legends such as Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk, collaborations with artists from singer-songwriter Laurie Anderson to Azeri vocalist Alim Qasimov and multimedia performer Meredith Monk.

"One element all human beings share is curiosity and the desire to learn new things," Harrington said.

"I think when someone comes to one of our shows, they expect to hear something they've never heard before," he said.

"What we've found is that the world is incredibly vast and that there are people in every culture, religion and background making music that's incredibly inspiring."

Harrington added what Kronos is doing is not intended to be self-serving, nor self-contained.

Working with young composers ensures the expansion of music to be played by a string quartet, and performing this work, Harrington added, hopefully "inspires audiences and players of the future to be inspired by this music."

There have been more than 800 pieces written for Kronos, and Harrington figured at least a third are being played by other groups throughout the world, something of which Harrington is deservedly proud.

"When I was about 12, I became enamored of the sound of two violins, a viola and a cello playing together," Harrington said, "so I feel a responsibility to kids who are like I was."

Harrington said Kronos has no intention of slowing down or resting on its laurels.

"I feel like we're just getting started. There are so many opportunities right now, I feel like this is the best time ever."

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