Saturday, 27 September 2008
Kronos at the Barbican
To the Barbican. The Kronos String Quartet is sharing a concert with the Alim Qazimov Ensemble from Azerbaijan as part of the Barbican's Ramadan Nights season. First the Kronos perform an eclectic mix of short pieces from afar as Iceland and Iraq. Most are played with a backing track of stray voices, drums and electronic bleeps and blobs with members of the quartet doubling up on percussion. My highlight was the the yearny Raga Mishra Bhairavi, originally written for the sarangi, a bowed string instrument from northern India but here transcribed for viola and played exquisitely by Hank Dutt. They're a versatile lot the Kronos who thoroughly deserve their reputation as original thinkers. I've always been a bit weary of their fondness for amplification because I think it can obliterate the finer nuances of sound but tonight the clarity of production was crystal clear. Up next was the singer Alim Qasimov. Sitting in the middle of his ensemble like a small firework, he and his daughter took us on a journey of unhappy love based on the texts of the 16th century Azerbaijani poet Fuzuli (the surtitles were a great help btw) that were interspersed with busy instrumental interludes. It all added up to one long sustained musical weep, all of it intoxicating stuff.