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Sitting with the members of the Kronos Quartet in their hotel lobby I am struck by a curious paradox. Although their instrumentation is famous for its musical democracy, the Kronos is equally famous for redefining these very rules. Other members may have input, but it’s the founding first violinist David Harrington who has always served as music director and resident visionary. Any ensemble could field this question, but it seems particularly pertinent here: is the Kronos Quartet a true ensemble of equals or is it Harrington’s band?
‘You want me to answer that?’ Harrington jumps in with a wry smile. But as the others slowly speak up, a picture emerges of the Kronos as an ensemble that exists in the same way it rehearses: like most other quartets, each member has an equal voice but, to paraphrase Orwell, she voices are a little more equal than others.
‘If one person has a dominant part of a particularly strong idea of the way a certain piece should go, then that person takes he lead,’ explains Kronos violist Hank Dutt, the other remaining founding member. ‘Hank was playing the theremin in a piece the other day,’ Harrington adds, ‘so he was running the rehearsal.’
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