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Release: Sept. 13, 2000

EDITORS: This is one in a series of stories that revisit the commissioned works that were part of the 1999-2000 Millennium Festival at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium. We will document how the works have developed or changed, where they have been performed, what the critics have said, and in some cases how the artists themselves gauge the works.


Hancher-commissioned compositions featured on CD

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Kronos Quartet has become a regular at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium, presenting numerous world premieres and commissioned works, so it was only natural that when Hancher organized a Millennium Festival for the 1999-2000 season, Kronos would play a major role.

Kronos -- the American ensemble that Billboard magazine calls "the most important chamber group of the 20th century," which not only "revolutionized chamber performance, but helped to change the face of contemporary music" -- presented the first of its two Hancher Millennium Festival concerts on Sept. 15, 1999. Titled "Traveling Music," the concert reflected the
ever-shrinking world of the new millennium, including music from India, Argentina, Yugoslavia, the United States, Korea, Iran, Azerbaijan and Mexico, featuring guest performances by American klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer and Indian tabla drummer Zakir Hussain.

Included in the concert were three world premieres and five Hancher commissions -- "Responso" by Argentine composer Anibal Troilo, "Pannonia Boundless" by Yugoslavian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, American composer Alicia Svigals’ "Kale Baveynen II," "Song of the Beggars" by Korean composer Hyo-shin Na and "Gallop of a Thousand Horses" by Iranian composer Kayhan Kalhor.

The world-music concert recalled the occasion several seasons before when Hancher enabled Kronos to try out the concept of an African-theme concert. The success of that concert led to the "Pieces of Africa" CD, which became the top-selling string quartet recording of all time, and the first recording ever to simultaneously top the classical and world music charts.

Kronos had performed the "Traveling Music" concept before they arrived in Iowa, but Hancher’s commissioning of five compositions was a crucial component of the concept’s fruition. And once again, Hancher’s contribution led to a chart-topping CD.

Kronos’ "Caravan," featuring three of the Hancher-commissioned compositions, was released in the spring of 2000 and immediately jumped into the top 10 in classical sales, a position it maintained for 14 weeks.

The CD, a probable Grammy Award nominee, has also been a hit with most critics. Larry Kelp wrote in San Francisco’s East Bay Express, " San Francisco’s innovative string quartet always comes up with intriguing concept CDs of new music, but Kronos ‘Caravan’ takes a giant step beyond the expected with a world music tour-de-force that is at once immediately listenable and also deeply probing. Teeming with exotic and ecstatic rhythms, virtuoso interplay, and haunting melodies, this may be the year’s best world-and-classical release."

A Billboard magazine review commented, "After a quarter of a century, the Kronos Quartet continues to amaze with its conceptual acuity and cultural breadth. . . ‘Caravan’ could prove to be not only one of the most popular Kronos albums but also one of the quartet’s best."

The London newspaper the Independent recommended the CD as "a rich, deep and impressively variegated album, beautifully played by both Kronos and their guests."

Even most critics with reservations found good things to say. Greg’s Music Reviews found problems but still concluded that Kronos "must be given commendation for continuing its relentless pursuit in creating a kind of global art. By forcing the western art music tradition to explore times and timbres and tradition the establishment refuses to acknowledge, it insures that classical music has a direction"

In addition to the release of "Caravan," Kronos has taken Hancher’s "Traveling Music" commissions around the globe, including performances for audiences totaling more than 20,000 in the United States, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the Canary Islands, Germany, Scotland, England, Israel, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Austria and Korea.

Hancher director Wallace Chappell comments, "Kronos is great to work with. They communicate beautifully, they regularly put us directly in touch with the composers, they consult with us every step of the way, and they credit us very faithfully as the works travel around their remarkable global concert circuit. It’s been a deeply satisfying relationship over the years, and the artistic and market success of ‘Caravan’ adds to that satisfaction, because our admittedly ambitious aim is to contribute positively to the artistic life of the nation and the world."

The Millennium Festival commissions for "Traveling Music" were supported by Procter & Gamble and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Hancher Millennium Festival was the most extensive and ambitious performing-arts millennium celebration in the United States. The season-spanning festival featured more than 20 major commissions in music, theater and dance. In addition to the "Traveling Music" compositions, new works were presented by theater visionary Robert Lepage; choreographers Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Susan Marshall, Bill T. Jones, Ushio Amagatsu and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers including Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield and UI alumnus David Lang. Performances of the commissioned works were presented by prominent ensembles including American Ballet Theatre, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sankai Juku, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Ahn Trio and the Ethos Percussion Group.

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