Kronos Quartet – Early Music (Lachrymæ Antiquæ) (1997)

FrontCover1What’s interesting about the latest outing from this prolific chamber group is not so much that they’ve chosen to create string quartet adaptations of music from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance — after all, these are folks who have commissioned arrangements of Jimi Hendrix and Bo Diddley, so we’ve learned not to be shocked — but rather that they’ve chosen to juxtapose the works of Machaut, Pérotin and Tye with pieces by John Cage, Moondog and Harry Partch, among other twentieth-century notables. But maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. It certainly makes lovely musical sense: the stark and static beauty of Arvo Pärt’s Psalom fits perfectly with John Dowland’s Lachrymae Antiquae (did that man never cheer up?) and John Cage’s Quodlibet sounds just right next to Pérotin’s “Viderunt Omnes.” Was Cage poking fun at his composition teachers with a parody of the raw, open harmonies of the twelfth century? If so, the Kronos folks have turned his intent on its ear in a way that he himself would probably have loved. Puckishness, however, is not really on the agenda here: the overriding mood is one of sadness and devotion, as the album’s subtitle (Latin for “ancient tears”) makes clear. Like most of Kronos’ best work, this is dark, lovely, eerie stuff. (by Rick Anderson)


Hank Dutt (viola)
David Harrington (violin)
Joan Jeanrenaud (cello)
John Sherba (violin)
Marja Mutru (harmonium)
David Lamb (bagpipe)
Wu Man (zhong ruan, da ruan)
Olov Johansson (nyckelharpa)
Huun-Huur Tu (vocals, igil, byzaanchi, toschpuluur)

01. Kyrie I (De Machaut) 0.54
02. Rachell’s Weepinge (Tye) 1.44
03. Långdans Efter Byfåns Mats (Lamb) 3.09
04. Lachrymæ Antiquæ (Dowland) 3.53
05. Psalom (Pärt) 2.01
06. Two Studies On Ancient Greek Scales (Partch) 3.37
07. Long-Ge (Body) 2.51
08. Totem Ancestor (Cage) 2.04
09. Kyrie II (De Machaut) 0.43
10. Brudmarsch Frå Östa (Traditional) 2.53
11. Using The Apostate Tyrant As His Tool (Kassia) 3.51
12. Synchrony No. 2 (Moondog) 2.38
13. Quodlibet (Cage) 1.26
14. Viderunt Omnes (Perotin) 11.41
15. Kyrie III (De Machaut) 1.02
16. Four Part Fantasia No. 2 (Pircell) 3.01
17. O Virtus Sapientie (v.Bingen) 4.24
18. Uleg-Khem (Traditional) 3.15
19. Farwell My Good I. Forever (Tye) 2.12
20. Collected Songs Where Every Verse Is Filled With Grief (SChnittke) 8.13
21. Bells (unknown) 1.28