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Image Entertainment presents

Kronos Quartet: Kronos On Stage (1998)

Stars: John Sherba, David Harrington, Hank Dutt, Joan Jeanrenaud
Other Stars: Wu Man
Director: Manfred Waffender

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (musical performance)
Run Time: 00h:55m:10s
Release Date: 2002-08-13
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-AA D-


DVD Review

For years, the string ensemble known as Kronos Quartet has always been willing to experiment outside the norm. Certainly, performing pieces by composers such as John Zorn or Terry Riley allows their repertoire to be quite expansive and, more importantly, extremely interesting. Their approach to contemporary classical music has always been impressive and creative, and this new DVD, Kronos On Stage is no different. Presented here are Kronos' performances of two extremely experimental and diverse compositions. The first is Black Angels, composed by George Crumb in the 1970s, a dark piece intended as a statement against the Vietnam War. Far from the typical realm for a string quartet, Black Angels is a harrowing collection of pieces requiring the Kronos musicians to screech, howl, bang gongs, and use their bows on glasses of water. The music is certainly difficult and chilling; its impact, effective and disturbing. And this is a terribly beautiful and amazing performance of such a demanding piece.

The second and longer performance is Ghost Opera by Tan Dun, in which Kronos is joined by Chinese musician Wu Man. Though Ghost Opera is not as dark and sinister as the previous piece, it is as complex a piece for a string quartet to perform. From chanting and vocal work to the use of cymbals and even bowls of water, the work is highly detailed and experimental in its nature. The performers must not only play multiple types of instruments, but they are required (as is written in the actual composition) to move around the stage and change orientation regularly. The end result is quite spectacular and an on-stage show quite unlike anything you might expect from a traditional, classical concert.

As always, the devotion Kronos seems to have for a stirring performance is totally evident here. The work presented here is amazing by almost any musical standard, and what's even more fascinating is just how "un-musical" these 2 pieces might seem at first; however, it is their moments of extreme noise balanced with extreme silences that seem to define the path. It is an immersion into a foreign environment; one that's not all that familiar considering it's usually standard to hear such quartets peacefully serenading audiences with their strings. If ever there was a moment that proved what consummate artists Kronos Quartet is composed of, it is this document of their work.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1:78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Outstanding image quality will greet viewers in what appears to be a transfer based on the high-definition program itself. The image is crisp, clear, and near-perfect, with all the fine details of the stage and its subtle lighting. The gorgeous color scheme is presented in a rock-solid form, with absolutely no grain or compression problems interfering with the performance. It helps enhance the richness of the music when the image is so completely hypnotizing.

Image Transfer Grade: A

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Out of the two audio mixes, the Dolby Digital 5.1 obviously has the best general ambience, with a stage-like presentation. The quality is quite brilliant and allows the music to truly come into its own. Since so much of these two experimental pieces is about long silences and very quiet use of instruments, the complete lack of hiss or any background noise allows the track to deliver plenty of power. Cranked up loud, this track is like being there. The 2.0 audio manages to be just as crisp and brilliant, but lacks quite the same effective use of surround channels as an imitation for acoustics in a theater. Both mixes deliver the goods, the 5.1 is simply a bit more vibrant and realistic.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no additional features on the disc other than simple menus for chapter selection. Still, the disc is well presented and dignified. The lack of features certainly doesn't reduce the overall impression of the performance.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

An excellent performance, Kronos On Stage is well worth owning by either fans of this quartet or anyone who appreciates experimental music in any form.

Dan Lopez 2002-08-14