The Kronos Quartet has never had much use for the decorum and stylistic purity expected of a classical string ensemble, but on last year's terrific Nuevo (Nonesuch) the group pulled out all the stops, transforming itself into something just short of a pop band. The album surveys the broad range of music, from classical to kitsch, produced in Mexico over the last century--an idea inspired by the disparate sounds that violinist David Harrington heard in the streets on a stroll through Mexico City. Composer Osvaldo Golijov, who arranged most of the pieces, found resourceful ways for the string quartet to adapt: on the woozy pop tune "Perfidia," the members' parts are overdubbed to make them sound like the schmaltzy 101 Strings Orchestra (Carlos Garcia, a street musician, plays the melody by blowing on the edge of an ivy leaf). On the space-age-bachelor-pad classic "Miniskirt," Kronos doesn't re-create Esquivel's wacky stereo effects, but it does pile on the vibrato, add some percussive interjections, and toss in a "groovy" here and there. And for the wild banda "El Sinaloense," producer Gustavo Santaolalla distorts the strings to mimic the dynamic brass-heavy palette of Banda el Recodo, the Mexican institution who made that song a hit--the music sounds like it's playing through the crappy PA system of a police car. The quartet even takes liberties with a straightforward classical piece like Silvestre Revuelta's "Sensemaya," whittling down the original orchestral score and adding a percussion ensemble. The program will consist primarily of pieces from Nuevo, including all those mentioned above; prerecorded elements will be used to simulate the album versions. Wednesday, February 19, 6 and 8 PM, Fullerton Hall, Art Institute of Chicago, Michigan and Adams; 312-575-8000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jay Blakesberg.