Winter Was Hard is a fairly typical early mélange type recording by Kronos, mixing in au courant contemporary fare with a downtown edge and 20th century classics. Of the former, John Zorn's "Forbidden Fruit" (originally available on his album Spillane) is the standout composition, one of the very best pieces he ever wrote in this idiom. Mixing the string quartet with turntablist Christian Marclay's wild thrashings and vocalist Ohta Hiromi's intensely erotic whisperings was an inspired move. John Lurie's "Bella by Barlight" is appropriately noirish, while Astor Piazzolla, who had just been introduced to the American public via American Clave records, is ably represented by one of his down-and-dirty tangos. Terry Riley and Arvo Part are less well-represented by works that wallow a bit much in tired minimalist and mystical areas respectively. Alfred Schnittke's "Quartet No. 3" is a robust and romantic work, played with bravura by Kronos, though for sheer gorgeous romanticism, it's tough to outdo Barber's "Adagio," here rearranged for string quartet but losing little of its passion and beauty. Winter Was Hard is worth hearing for its highlights, definitely so if the listener hasn't otherwise heard the Zorn piece.
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick
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