Kronos Quartet – A Thousand Thoughts [TrackList follows] – Nonesuch Pro 400225, 75:00 (4/8/14) ****:
(David Harrington, violin /John Sherba, violin /Hank Dutt, viola /Sunny Yang, cello (tracks 1, 3, 8, 10, 12) /Joan Jeanrenaud, cello (tracks 11, 14, 15), /Jennifer Culp, cello (tracks 6, 13) /Jeffrey Zeigler, cello (tracks 2, 4, 5, 7, 9))
You can depend on the Kronos Quartet for musical explorations beyond the mainstream, and this CD is no exception. Released as part of the groups 40th Anniversary, A Thousand Thoughts is a look at Kronos’ geographically wide-ranging sources. It features music from 14 different countries, including China, India, Sweden, and Vietnam. The album includes the four cellists who have been in Kronos Quartet over the last 36 years: Joan Jeanrenaud (1978–1999), Jennifer Culp (1999–2005), Jeffrey Zeigler (2005–2013), and Sunny Yang (2013–present). Ten of the album’s 15 pieces are previously unreleased.
Many of the works were commissioned by the group, and are things you will only hear played by the Quartet. For my listening tastes, this is not a background music disc, but rather one that requires some attention, some thought, and some reflection. That’s not a negative. The disc rewards the listener who makes an investment to hear this striking and complex music. Not every track was to my taste. Some of the shouting and chanting tended to take me out of my concentration, but that is a personal reaction, not one that every listener will share. On the other hand, tracks like Evic Taskim were deeply moving and interesting.
From the standpoint of audio, the disc gives a good account of the sound of the Quartet and the acoustics and recordings are consistent. I bring this up because the disc is a compilation from different times and several recording locations. It’s obvious that the producers have a sound in mind, and it is nicely replicated as the locations varied.
The Kronos Quartet has always been all about exploration, and this disc meets that criteria. While there are many works from many lands, the disc generally works as a compete but varied experience. I recommend it for lovers of the Kronos Quartet, for listeners who are comfortable with music off the standard concert repertoire, and people who want to expand their musical horizons. Music lovers looking for a single-composer disc or a consistent tone had best look elsewhere.
1 Tusen Tankar (Traditional)
2 Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground (Blind Willie Johnson)
3 La Sidounak Sayyada (Omar Souleyman)
4 Lưu thủy trường (Traditional/Kim Sinh)
5 Aha Gèdawo (Gétatchèw Mèkurya)
6 An Buachaillín Bán (Traditional)
7 The Round Sun and Crescent Moon in the Sky (Traditional)
8 Eviç Taksim (Tanburi Cemil Bey)
9 Rangin Kaman (excerpt) (Homayun Sakhi)
10 Smyrneiko Minore (Traditional)
11 Cry of a Lady (Terry Riley)
12 Sim Sholom (Alter Yechiel Karniol)
13 Mera Kuchh Saaman (Rahul Dev Burman)
14 Asleep (from Five Tango Sensations) (Astor Piazzolla)
15 Danny Boy (Traditional)
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