‘Kronos Quartet has broken the boundaries of what string quartets can do.’ – New York Times
Nonesuch re-releases Kronos Quartet’s award-winning album Black Angels on vinyl to coincide with Kronos Quartet: Five Decades, a year-long celebration of the quartet’s 50th anniversary. First released in 1990, the album features David Harrington (violin), John Sherba, (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Joan Jeanrenaud (cello) performing George Crumb’s title piece, which inspired Harrington to found the quartet in 1973, and works by Charles Ives, István Márta, Thomas Tallis, and Dmitri Shostakovich. Crumb’s title piece, called ‘an unusually elevated and searing Vietnam War protest’ by the New York Times, sets a dark, powerful tone for this collection, which addresses the political/physical/spiritual consequences of war. The fourth side of the vinyl edition is an etching of an illustration created especially for this purpose by Matt Mahurin, whose work is featured on the original album cover. ‘Stylishly packaged, intelligently programmed, superbly recorded and brilliantly performed’, proclaimed Gramophone. ‘In short, very much the sort of disc we’ve come to expect from the talented and imaginative Kronos Quartet.’ The Evening Standard included it among its ‘100 Definitive Classical Albums of the 20th Century’.
“Black Angels was conceived as a kind of parable on our troubled contemporary world,” George Crumb wrote in 1986, as cited in the album notes. “The work portrays a voyage of the soul… The numerological symbolism of Black Angels, while perhaps not immediately perceptible to the ear, is nonetheless quite faithfully reflected in the musical structure. These ‘magical’ relationships are variously expressed; e.g. in terms of length, groupings of single tones, durations, patterns of repetition, etc.”
For 50 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet – David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Paul Wiancko (cello) – has challenged and reimagined what a string quartet can be. Founded at a time when the form was largely centred on long-established, Western European traditions, Kronos has been at the forefront of revolutionizing the string quartet into a living art form that responds to the people and issues of our time. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our era, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 70 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, and collaborating with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers. Through its nonprofit organization, Kronos Performing Arts Association, Kronos has commissioned more than 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet – including the Kronos Fifty for the Future library of free, educational repertoire. Kronos has received more than 40 awards, including three Grammy Awards and the Polar Music, Avery Fisher, and Edison Klassiek Oeuvre Prizes.
Kronos is prolific and wide-ranging on recordings. The ensemble’s expansive discography on Nonesuch includes three Grammy-winning albums: Terry Riley’s Sun Rings (2019), Landfall with Laurie Anderson (2018), and Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw (2003); the 40th-anniversary boxed set Kronos Explorer Series; Nuevo (2002), a Grammy- and Latin Grammy–nominated celebration of Mexican culture; Pieces of Africa (1992), a showcase of African-born composers that simultaneously topped Billboard’s Classical and World Music charts; and Folk Songs (2017), Nonesuch’s 50th album with Kronos, which featured Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, and Natalie Merchant singing traditional folk songs.
Disc 1: Side A
1. Black Angels: I. Departure (George Crumb)
2. Black Angels: II. Absence (George Crumb)
3. Black Angels III: Return (George Crumb)
Disc 1: Side B
1. Spem in Alium (Thomas Tallis, arr. Kronos Quartet)
2. Doom. A Sigh (Istvan Marta)
3. They Are There! Fighting for the People's New Free World (Charles Ives)
Disc 2: Side C
1. Quartet No. 8: I. Largo (Dmitri Shostakovich)
2. Quartet No. 8: II. Allegro molto (Dmitri Shostakovich)
3. Quartet No. 8: III. Allegretto (Dmitri Shostakovich)
4. Quartet No. 8: IV. Largo (Dmitri Shostakovich)
5. Quartet No. 8: V. Largo (Dmitri Shostakovich)