Kronos Quartet

A Thousand Thoughts

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A Thousand Thoughts, whose title comes from the traditional Swedish melody that opens the program, is not a release of new material but a compilation of prior Kronos Quartet performances that draw on international materials. They go back as far as 1989, but the majority come from after 2000, when this aspect of the group's repertoire has become more important. As such, reactions to them may well depend on whether listeners think this kind of experiment represents laudable curiosity or a drive-by approach to world music. Even the detractors, though, would do well to note the following positives. The Kronos Quartet has been highly influential in this regard, as it has in so many others, and it's due to their efforts that it's commonplace nowadays to hear tango music (as heard here) or something similar on a string quartet recital. The group does not simply rely on standards that fit the quartet medium but often feature representatives of the ethnic traditions involved, pushing themselves a bit to enter into exotic sound worlds. (Especially successful in this regard is the concluding version of Danny Boy, sung by the late Texas country singer and yodeler Don Walser, the so-called Pavarotti of the Plains; this version was available on one of Walser's albums but is not exactly a common item.) The sound engineering associated with the Kronos has always been high-class, and this collection of live and studio tracks recorded over almost a 25-year period holds together as a unit quite well. Likewise, the quartet itself has maintained a consistent sound over the several changes in personnel represented here. This has the potential to serve as a good sampler for those interested in the ethnomusicological side of contemporary chamber music.

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