Because the Kronos Quartet (violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt, and cellist Sunny Yang) enjoys an international reputation, it is not always easy to find opportunities to listen to them in their home town of San Francisco. However, for the past two years the Kronos Performing Arts Association has provided such opportunities in the form of a “long weekend” festival held at the SFJAZZ Center. The first of these festivals was an extended celebration of the 80th birthday of Terry Riley. The second, held this past February, was entitled Kronos Festival 2016: Explorer Series; and it offered a worldwide perspective of music-making of impressively prodigious breadth.
This series will continue this coming February. This time the title will be KRONOS FESTIVAL 2017: Here and Now, and it will feature the innovations of the Bay Area music community. Particular attention will be given to the Iranian-American composer Sahba Aminikia, who has been designated artist-in-residence for the festival. Aminikia holds both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), where he studied composition with Daniel J. Becker, David Garner, David Conte, and the late Conrad Susa. His music has been performed by local ensembles. His works have been composed on commission from not only Kronos but also local ensembles such as Symphony Parnassus, Mobius Trio, Delphi Trio, and The Living Earth Show, was well as the SFCM New Music Ensemble. Ten of Aminikia’s pieces will be performed over the course of the festival.
The festival will run over the course of three days with both evening and matinee concerts as well as a Family Concert held on a Saturday morning. As in previous festivals, Kronos will be joined by a diverse variety of guests for this occasion, some of whom will be familiar from past festivals. (Memorable selections from the past will also be revisited.) A summary of the six events is as follows:
Thursday, February 2, 7:30 p.m., The Sun Rises: The festival will kick off with the first of Aminikia’s pieces to be performed. “Grandma’s House” is a joyous fanfare inspired by Iranian children’s television programming during the 1980s. Students from the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA) will join Kronos for the performance. The first guest artist of the evening will be Iranian vocalist (now residing in Oakland) Mahsa Vahdat. (The title of this concert comes from Vahdat’s recent album, The Sun Will Rise.) She will sing her own songs accompanied by Kronos, playing arrangements prepared by Aminikia. The other guest appearance will be by the San Francisco Girls Chorus, giving the world premiere of Aminikia’s “Music of the Spheres,” based on lullabies from three different regions of Iran. [updated 1/12, 10:45 a.m. The program will also include two composed under commission for Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire by Bay Area composers Trey Spruance and Kala Ramnath, as well as a composition involving both choreography and music by Mark Applebaum, and "Pinched," a new work by Ryan Brown.] The program will also revisit an encore selection from the 2016 festival, Jacob Garchik’s arrangement of Pete Townshend’s “Baba O’Riley,” composed as a tribute to Terry Riley.
Friday, February 3, 7:30 p.m., Carrying the Past: This program will survey the diversity of past and present influences. In the spirit of recognizing Townshend, Van Dyke Parks, best known for this work in the rock world, will join Kronos for the first performance of A Coney Island of the Mind, readings of poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti against an “underscore” played by Kronos. Parks will deliver the readings. The other world premiere on the program will be “Yessori” (sound from the past), composed for haegeum (two-stringed Korean fiddle), which will be played by composer Soo Yeon Lyuh, along with the Kronos. Also new to the Bay Area will be Kronos’ performance of Riley’s “The Sequent Risadome. The Fifty for the Future selection on the program will be Aleksandra Vrebalov’s “The Desert, My Rose,” which will be performed by the SOTA-based Dragon String Quartet. Kronos will also play Tohru Ueda’s realization of Hamza El Din’s “Escalay” (featured on the album Pieces of Africa) and Becker’s “Carrying the Past.” Finally, Aminikia has provided an arrangement of “Rain,” by Kayhan Kalhor and Mohammad Reza Shajarian.
Saturday, February 4, 11 a.m., Around the World with Kronos: This will be an hour-long family-friendly concert that will survey the wide international tastes of the Kronos repertoire.
Saturday, February 4, 2 p.m., Persian Dances: Music of Sahba Aminikia: This will be a broad survey of Aminikia’s past works composed between 2010 and this year. Each piece will feature one or more local performers. The program will include both a piano solo, “Lullaby,” played by Jeffrey LaDeur, and a piano trio, “Shabo Meh” (night and fog), played by the Delphi Trio, in which LaDeur joins violinist Liana Bérubé and cellist Michelle Kwon. The most recent work will be “The Wind Will Blow Us Away,” played by the Amaranth Quartet of violinists Emily Botel and Abigail Shiman, violist Erika Zappia, and cellist Helen Newby. The opening selection will be the earliest work on the program, “Persian Dances,” performed by the Mobius Trio of guitarists Robert Nance, Mason Fish, and Matthew Holmes-Linder. These performances will be followed by an informal conversation and Q&A with Aminikia.
Saturday, February 4, 5 p.m., Thalea String Quartet Plays Kronos’ Fifty for the Future: This will be an opportunity to listen to works commissioned by Kronos performed by a “next generation” string quartet. Those who read this site regularly already know that Thalea is the first SFCM quartet-in-residence, consisting of students Christopher Whitley (first violin), Kumiko Sakamoto (second violin), Luis Bellorin (viola), and Bridget Pasker (cello). The Fifty for the Future works that will be performed on this program will be by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, “Rǝqs” (dance), Garth Knox, the third movement (“Dimensions”) of his Satellites suite, and two of the movements from Wu Man’s Four Chinese Paintings, arranged for string quartet by Danny Clay. Thalea will also open the program with the first piece that Riley wrote for Kronos, “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector.” In addition the program will include Caroline Shaw’s “Entr’acte,” which Thalea played at SFCM last season.
Saturday, February 4, 7:30 p.m., The Odyssey: Those who follow the performances of new works in this city may recognize this title as being that of a 40-minute staged suite by Vân-Ánh Võ, whose full title was The Odyssey – from Vietnam to America. Created to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, Võ created an exploration of the personal and spiritual journeys of the Vietnamese boat people; and the result was given its world premiere this past January at the YBCA (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts) Forum. Võ has now arranged excepts from this work for Kronos to perform at this final program of their festival. She will join Kronos, playing traditional Vietnamese instruments in these arrangements. This quintet will also perform “My Lai Lullaby,” the instrumental prelude that Jonathan Berger wrote for a monodrama about the efforts of Hugh Thompson to prevent the My Lai Massacre. The program will also include the world premiere of of Aminikia’s “Pareeshan” (abstracted), inspired by the Persian violinist Parviz Yahaghi. In addition, The Living Earth Show duo of Travis Andrews (electric guitar) and Andy Meyerson (percussion) will play Aminikia’s “Sooge Sohrab,” an interpretation of a popular Persian myth. The program will begin with the world premiere of “Knock,” a recent composition by Kronos’ founding cellist, Joan Jeanrenaud. The Fifty for the Future composer for this program will be Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq with an excerpt from her “Sivunittinni” (voices). Tagaq made this piece by first recording several of her own vocal performances, and the results were transcribed and arranged for string quartet by Garchik. The program will also include Kevin Villalta’s arrangement of “Y Soy Llanero,” a Columbian cowboy joropo (the national dance of Venezuela, whose musical style resembles the fandango) made famous by Cholo Valderrama.
All of these concerts will take place at the SFJAZZ Center, located at 201 Franklin Street, on the northwest corner of Fell Street. The family concert will be held in the Robert N. Miner Auditorium. Adult admission will be $15 with a $10 rate for youth under 16. Seating will be general admission. Tickets may be purchased in advance through an event page on the SFJAZZ Web site. Both Saturday afternoon concerts will be performed in the Joe Henderson Lab. Seating will again be general admission, and all tickets will be sold for $20. Separate event pages have been created for the Persian Dances program and the Thalea String Quartet recital. All three evening concerts will be held in Miner Auditorium. Ticket prices range from $20 to $65; and there are separate event pages for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 866-920-5299 or by visiting the Box Office on the ground floor of the SFJAZZ Center.