Kronos Quartet


For over 45 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet – David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello) – has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 60 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet. Kronos has received over 40 awards, including the Polar Music and Avery Fisher Prizes, two of the most prestigious awards given to musicians. In 2018, the group became the first US-based musicians to receive the WOMEX (World Music Expo) Artist Award.

Since 1973, Kronos has built a compellingly eclectic repertoire for string quartet, performing and recording works by 20th-century masters (Bartók, Webern, Schnittke), contemporary composers (Sahba Aminikia, Nicole Lizée, Vladimir Martynov, Aleksandra Vrebalov), jazz legends (Charles Mingus, Maria Schneider, Thelonious Monk), rock artists (Jimi Hendrix, The Who’s Pete Townshend, Sigur Rós), and artists who defy genre (multi-disciplinary artists Laurie Anderson and Trevor Paglen, spoken-word poets from Youth Speaks).

Integral to Kronos’ work is a series of long-running collaborations with many of the world’s foremost composers, including a 40-year collaborative relationship with Terry Riley that has resulted in 27 works for string quartet; Philip Glass on an all-Glass CD in 1995 and premieres of String Quartets No. 6 (2013) and No. 7 (2014); Azerbaijan’s Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, featured on the album Mugam Sayagi (2005); Steve Reich, of whose work Kronos has recorded the Grammy-winning composition Different Trains (1989), Triple Quartet (2001), and WTC 9/11 (2011); and many more.

Kronos has collaborated with performers from around the world, including the Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Azeri vocalist Alim Qasimov, Bollywood “playback singer” Asha Bhosle, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks, Iranian vocalist Mahsa Vahdat, and Trio Da Kali, an ensemble of Malian griot musicians assembled by Aga Khan Music Initiative. Kronos has also performed live and/or recorded with artists such as Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Angélique Kidjo, Zakir Hussain, Tom Waits, Rokia Traoré, Van Dyke Parks, Howard Zinn, Betty Carter, Caetano Veloso, k.d. lang, Nine Inch Nails, Amanda Palmer, Jherek Bischoff, The National, and múm. In dance, the famed choreographers Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Eiko & Koma, and Paul Lightfoot and Sol León (Nederlands Dans Theater) have created pieces with Kronos’ music.

Kronos’ work has been featured prominently in films, including the Academy Award–nominated documentaries How to Survive a Plague (2012) and Dirty Wars (2013). Kronos recorded scores by Philip Glass (Dracula), Clint Mansell (Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, and Requiem for a Dream), Terry Riley (François Girard’s Hochelaga terre des âmes), and Jacob Garchik (Guy Maddin’s The Green Fog), as well as contributed music to Mishima: A Life in Four Chapter, 21 Grams, Heat, La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty), and many others. A Thousand Thoughts, a live documentary co-directed and written by filmmakers Sam Green and Joe Bini that features live narration by Green and live music by Kronos, debuted at Sundance Film Festival and Wexner Center for the Arts in 2018.

The quartet tours extensively each year, appearing in concert halls, clubs, and festivals including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Big Ears, BAM Next Wave Festival, the Barbican in London, WOMAD, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Shanghai Concert Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and Haydn Hall at Schloss Esterhazy. Kronos is equally prolific and wide-ranging on recordings, including two Grammy-winning albums: Landfall with Laurie Anderson (2018) and Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite featuring Dawn Upshaw (2003); as well as Pieces of Africa (1992), a showcase of African-born composers that simultaneously topped Billboard’s Classical and World Music lists, and Nuevo (2002), a Grammy and Latin Grammy-nominated celebration of Mexican culture – all of which were released by longtime label Nonesuch Records. Among Kronos’ recent releases are the 2018 Songlines Music Award-winning Ladilikan (World Circuit Records) with Trio Da Kali, Placeless (Kirkelig Kulturverksted) with Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat, and Sun Rings (Nonesuch), commissioned by NASA and composed by Terry Riley for string quartet, chorus and pre-recorded spacescapes. Music publishers Boosey & Hawkes and Kronos have released two volumes of Kronos Collection sheet music.

The nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association (KPAA) manages all aspects of Kronos’ work, including the commissioning of new works, concert tours and home season performances, education programs, and the annual Kronos Festival. In 2015, Kronos launched 50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, an education and legacy project that is commissioning—and distributing online for free—50 new works for string quartet designed expressly for the training of students and emerging professionals and composed by 25 women and 25 men from around the world. Scores and parts, recordings, and other materials are available on Lead partner Carnegie Hall and an adventurous group that includes presenters, academic institutions, foundations, and individuals have joined forces with KPAA to support this program.