The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Kronos Quartet
Composer: Various

Floodplain, created in one era of American politics and released in another, presents commissions and arrangements of music from around the Middle East.

So much of the CD’s effect is bound up in the strength of the concept, production and writing/arrangement – but this is as much part of what Kronos is about as tuning or agreement on bowing. Whether it’s the occasional, judicious use of reverb – a lesson for other crossover projects – or the integration of the quartet with the sounds of Palestinian hip-hop and Azerbaijani traditional singing, the interaction is always thoughtful, never overdone.

Nevertheless, while a few of the pieces are a little short on whole-group participation, the finest music is as notable for the quartet’s performance as it is for off-stage factors. The bent notes, dry, brittle pizzicato and rousing tremolo flourishes of the Azerbaijani Getme, Getme are geographically evocative, while the ensemble of the Iranian Lullaby, in which accompaniment must follow a tricky, elaborate melody, is impressive; and in the thrusting lower parts, ominous cluster chords and gypsy panache of the Serbian …hold me, neighbor, in this storm…, the theme of new life and creativity following tragedy, which inspires the whole of this engaging album, is encapsulated.


Chris Elcombe