Kronos Quartet in Gent (BE)

The concert took place in the concertzaal de bijloke in Gent (BE). It was preceded by the presentation of the 2002-2003 bijloke programme, which probably explained why there were that many politicians and other civil servants in the auditorium. I shouldn’t complain though, since (1) they behaved very civilized for politicians and (2) we got our tickets from one such civial servant who got detained at the last moment. So thank you !

The auditorium is actually a 13th century hospital ward, with a brilliant roof made of oak wood. The building has been restored (10 year renovation), and all of the original settings were preserved. They love to describe the concert hall as a huge piece of furniture, that could be removed at all times, without any damage to the building. And it truly is a magnificent setting.

Anyway beside the policitiancs / civil servants and the splendid settings, I came to listen to the Kronos Quartet. David Harrintgon, John Sherba, Hank Dutt, and Jennifer Culp (who’s been with Kronos since 1999) offered a refreshing performance. The band members looked a bit tired though.

All of the concert was amplified –I’d spend a fortune to see e.g. Kronos Quartet or the Michael Nyman Band perform without amplification (come to think of it, I probably could if I’d spend that fortune)– some of the pieces required an aditional tape (?) to be played. This really bothered me at times.

The programme:

  • Aleksandra Vrebalov: Pannonia Boundless
    Beautiful piece, I perceived it as rather classical in it’s construction.
  • Rahul Dev Burman: Aaj Ki Raat (Tonight is the Night)

    Here’s where the tape really bothered me. The tape played Zakir Hussain on tabla, and it really seemed like Kronos was performing additional music to that. It just didn’t come over as live music.

  • Severiano Brise√ío: El Sinaloense (The Man from Sinaloa)
  • Agust√ån Lara: Se Me Hizo F¬∑cil (It was easy for me)
  • Silvestre Revueltas: Sensemay¬∑
    That bloody tape with percussion again.
  • Charles Mingus: Myself When I Am Real
    Mmmmmm. Mingus. Enough said.
  • Steve Reich: Triple Quartet
    I was so looking forward to this. And don’t get me wrong, it was played to perfection. The triple quartet requires –as the name implies– three quartets for its performance. Now, I do understand that it’s not very feasible to have three quartets in, but it’s disappointing to have to listen to two of those quartets on tape, and the third accompanying that tape in a live performance. And they played it so perfectly that there wasn’t any difference between the sound of the quartets on tape vs the live performance. Might as well have been listening to the cd.
  • Peteris Vasks: Quartet No.4
    Revelation of the day. This is a very beautiful piece of music. It started softly with an Elegy, turned really agressive in the second part (Toccata I), flowing into a dynamic Chorale. Raw again for the fourth part (Toccata II), with material from the second bit, and then the fifth part. Oh boy, the fifth part. Meditiation says it all. Dampened strings, referals to the first part, and then slowly ending in silence.
    The audience was very appreciative. The waited with the abundant applause until after the last unaudible (!) note had died.

And then two encores, Nacho Verduzco by Sanchez and Mini Skirt by Juan Garcia Esquivel, both taken from their new album, Nuevo. Mini Skirt is a hilarious piece, very jazzy, reminds me of Henri Mancini’s music. From the liner notes:

Now known as the king of Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music, the dashing Juan GarcÌa Esquivel was signed by RCA Victor in 1958, just as two-channel Hi-Fi stereo systems were being introduced into American households. Audiences were eager to try out their sound equipment with new recordings, and Esquivel?s compositions and arrangements pushed stereos to their limits. Born in Tampico but raised in Mexico City, Esquivel was a piano prodigy who organized his first orchestra at age 17. Shortly afterwards he was leading the orchestra at XEW, Mexico City?s most popular radio station. He constantly experimented with new instruments, and his recordings for RCA Victor included bells, xylophones, harpsichords, timbales, gourds, bongos and organs. Also present were vocal choruses that often left the lyrics behind, humming, whistling, and singing ?zu-zu-zu? or ?pow!? instead.

nuevo @ nonesuch