After three years of effort to get them to Armenia, the world-renowned Kronos Quartet is scheduled play in Yerevan June 29 at Aram Khachatryan Philharmonic Hall.
As far back as 2001, the Armenian Informational Music Center has been trying to get the quartet to Armenia. For a number of reasons, including scheduling, and the musicians’ concern that Armenia was in an “unstable” region, invitations have been turned down.
“We simply cannot count how many and what kind of numerous letters we have sent to the quartet’s manager telling about Armenia and about the rich Armenian cultural background,” says chief manager of the center Sona Hovhannisyan.
“Only in the end of 2003 we got an answer to our letters and it seemed to be unbelievable that their managing director Janet Cowperthwaite wrote that ‘thanks to your latest letter the musicians gave in and agreed to visit Armenia‘.”
The quartet, comprised of David Harrington on first violin, John Sherba on second violin, Hank Dutt on viola, and Jennifer Calp on cello, is known for its experimentation and its ability to cross genres of rock, jazz and classical music. The group, formed in San Francisco in 1973, has won numerous international awards, including three Edison Prizes ( Netherlands), Rolf Schock Prize in Music ( Sweden), a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance, amongst others.
Tuesday night’s performance is part of Perspectives XXI International Music Festival, the fifth in Yerevan.
Over the years, more than 450 pieces have been written or arranged for Kronos. The quartet's extensive repertoire includes Alban Berg, Alfred Schnittke, George Crumb, Astor Piazzolla. As early as 15 years ago, the quartet ordered a composition from Armenian composer Avet Terteryan and within the past few years, composers Ashot Zohrabyan and Tigran Tamezyan have written compositions performed by Kronos.
While it is not unusual for Armenia to host the occasional regionally-famous classical musician or conductor, getting an internationally-known group is a rarity.
“This is our cultural policy to invite music stars to Armenia,” says director of Armenian Information Music Center composer Stepan Rostomyan. “Of course, it is very hard. Every time it takes two-three years for successfully finishing negotiations but Armenia with its cultural potential and history is as good as other countries where visits of stars are a usual and habitual thing.”
The sanctioning of Perspectives XXI identifies
Armenia as a “serious country and organization”,
Rostomyan says, making it easier to negotiate
with world-class artists. During last year’s
festival London Symphonietta and Jury Bashmet
performed in Yerevan.
“It would be more impressive if the festival was carried out under high patronage of the country’s president,” Rostomyan says. “In general when such musicians are invited to a festival then these kind of events are carried out precisely. We haven’t gotten consent yet but we still have hope,” says Rostomyan.
The Khachatryan hall holds 1600 seats. Ticket prices for the concert range from $5 to $35– higher than average for Yerevan concerts, but according to one vendor, ticket sales are high.