Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Kronos Quartet - In Accord
Piazzolla - Four, for Tango * Riley, Cadenza on the Night Plain * Ueda - Hamza el Din: Escalay * Zorn - Cat O' Nine Tails * Adams - John's Book of Alleged Dances * Hildegard von Bingen - O Virtus Sapientie * Partch - Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales * Perotin - Viderunt Omnes * Schnittke - Collected Songs Where Every Verse is Filled With Grief * Ortiz - Altar de Muertos * Hendrix - Purple Haze
DVD written and directed by Manfred Waffender
16:9 anamorphically enhanced for widescreen television * PCM stereo
Arthaus Musik 100 050 * [56 minutes]


It might seem like stating the obvious, but this disc is really for fans, and I use the word advisedly, of the Kronos Quartet. Essentially this is a classical music rock video, short pieces by various composers performed in a studio setting, alternating with different members of the band sat in a theatre seat talking straight to camera about the music. They don't talk in any real depth, affably making observations about their relationship as musicians with various composers.

The music itself is a typically, deliberately eclectic selection, ranging from Hildegard von Bingen to Astor Piazzolla, the majority of the pieces being from the modern (post-modern) repertoire, some written for the Kronos Quartet. The performances are typically bold and direct, so it is a shame that the speech is sometimes introduced before the music has had a chance to finish, reinforcing the rock music video / TV show sensibility. As such it is an interesting programme to watch, particularly as the members of the band all seem very down-to-earth, pleasantly unpretentious people, but the self-consciously pop-art video stylising becomes increasingly irritating with repeated viewing. Manfred Waffender can't resist using every hackneyed trick in the video director's book, with such devices as alternating in focus and deeply out-of-focus shots of the Quartet in the Piazzolla only serving to distract from the music and draw attention to the nature of the imagery. The later Hamza el Din: Escalay (realised by Tohru Ueda) flows attractively, but is marred visually because footage originally shot in Academy ratio has been cropped and awkwardly reformatted to the same widescreen ratio as the main programme.

The programme runs just over 56 minutes and offers no special features on the disc (unless you count subtitles in French and German), though the booklet contains notes on each composer. The picture is pin-sharp, presented at 16:9 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen television. The sound, disappointingly for a 1998 production is only in PCM stereo, but it is very clear and forward, as befits the nature of the music. As I suggested at the beginning, how much you will appreciate this really does depend on your empathy for the ethos of the Kronos Quartet. Many will simply find it too gimmicky, and the music too negligible to warrant serious attention.

 Gary S. Dalkin

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