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Kronos Quartet: Ghost Opera

Key among the achievements of the Kronos Quartet has been the exponential expansion of string quartet repertoire by commissioning new works far and wide. But it is the very far-and-wide aspect that accounts for their other notable success-bringing the voices of international composers into what has traditionally been a western classical organism. One such example is Chinese composer Tan Dun’s “Ghost Opera,” a fascinating ambi-cultural piece for string quartet and the Chinese lute called the pipa (played by Wu Man). It has just been released as one of the Kronos “singles” (Nonesuch; 35:46), consisting of single works on a CD. Dun’s work is operatic in the sense of seamlessly bringing together assorted emotive qualities and global cultural instincts: we hear snippets of Baroque, of traditional Chinese music and atonal sonic colors, as from a unique palette that knows no boundaries. Tying together east and west is a delicate process, failing more often than succeeding. But “Ghost Opera” succeeds, renewing hope in the prospect.

Originally Published