Perth Concert Hall
Review: Neville Cohn
To listen to the Kronos Quartet is to be drawn into all manner of fascinating new music worlds, as much likely to uplift as to challenge - and occasionally to bewilder.
There is no more adventurous quartet on the planet than Kronos - and the ensemble's program on Thursday, before an often wildly enthusiastic house, took us on an often hectic journey through novel harmonic and rhythmic sound territory.
Inspired by complex regional rhythmic patterns as well as the ethnic diversity and conflicts of the Balkans, the intensity of the Kronos' performance of Vrebalov's ....Hold Me, Neighbour, in this Storm... brought me to the edge of my seat.
With second violinist John Sherba doubling as percussionist to beat strident rhythmic patterns on a drum and all four musicians later stamping their feet vigorously while playing their instruments, Verbalov's piece flashed into vigorous life.
In the wake of 9/11, any number of composers came up with musical responses to this cataclysmic event. I dare say that more than a few of these offerings will fade into obscurity - but some may well live on. One of the most significant of these is Steve Reich's WTC 9/11.
Incorporating snatches of emergency messages from police and ambulance personnel and frantic phone calls from the doomed towers - and, later, recollections of those involved at the time looking back on that harrowing tragedy - Reich's inimitable writing makes for a disturbing listening experience. Anguish and incomprehension inform much of the writing; it's riveting stuff.
Ideally, WTC 9/11 needs to be heard a number of times to fully assimilate its swarming detail.
In so closely knit an ensemble as the Kronos Quartet, it is perhaps invidious to single out individual players but it would be ungracious not to particularly mention Hank Dutt. A master of the treacherous viola, his extended solo in Narayan's Raga Mishra Bhairavi was a gratifying instance of high musicianship.
Right now, very little that is beautiful comes out of Syria. Omar Souleyman's Sidounak Sayyada, however, is just that, its infectious gaiety conjuring up images of belly dancers moving to the sound of sensuous strings. It was the apotheosis of rhythm.
A generous compilation included works by Swedish and Vietnamese composers.
Laurence Neff's lighting design did much to reinforce and heighten mood.