Published: Nov. 9, 2015 By


David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet works with the Altius Quartet. Photo courtesy Hsing-ay Hsu.

The Kronos Quartet, known for its creative reimaginings of the string quartet, visited CU-Boulder for the second time in November 2014 as part of CU Presents’ Artist Series and the Pendulum New Music Series. The chance to have them return and work with student performers and composers was too good to pass up.

“On their first visit, they were so involved in teaching our students that they nearly missed their flight out of town,” says Joan Braun, Assistant Dean for Concerts and Strategic Communications at the College of Music and CU Presents Executive Director.

“It’s unique for our students to have such meaningful contact with these professionals,” Braun says. The Kronos Quartet taught master classes, each member—David Harrington, John Sherba, Hank Dutt and Sunny Yang—working individually with a quartet of students; Kronos also conducted a composition seminar with Associate Professor of Composition Daniel Kellogg.

“They take their role as educators very seriously,” says Braun. “They view themselves as helping to create the next generation of musicians and composers.”

“While each member brought their own personality into their coaching, they all focused on investigating what the composer had imagined, and then daring to breathe more life into that vision,” reflects Hsing-ay Hsu, Artistic Director of Pendulum New Music. “As in our Pendulum program, the collaboration between composer and performer is at the core of their work. And on the pedagogical side, there is nothing more effective than having our students hear the ideas we teach be reiterated by the foremost contemporary quartet of our time.”

To mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, Kronos commissioned a work of music and film by Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and filmmaker Bill Morrison. They performed “Beyond Zero: 1914-1918” at Macky Auditorium during their visit.

Braun says it was a profound experience. “It was both memorable and meaningful to have an event like this on a college campus, where people learn about current and historical events. It demonstrates that art is at the center of helping us make sense of those experiences as a culture.”

Indeed, that’s what Kronos do so well. They understand the role of new music in keeping the art form relevant—a shared goal with the College of Music. “The Kronos take our reputation with them wherever they go. It’s a way for us to be known to a broader circle,” says Braun.

Read more stories like this in the online edition of Colorado Music magazine.