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The Kronos Quartet 

Wednesday, March 31; Touhill Performing Arts Center

The Kronos Quartet, the classically trained but innovatively directed foursome known for its inimitable artistic vision and dedication to experimentation, has been performing since 1973 (though cellist Jennifer Culp replaced Joan Jeanrenaud on the instrument in 1999), all the while flying in the face of the classical-music establishment with a flair for unconventional presentation and rock-level energy. Since moving to Nonesuch Records in 1986, the quartet has commissioned pieces from modern composers such as Philip Glass and John Zorn, performed the works of tango innovator Astor Piazzolla and free-jazz visionary Ornette Coleman, toured the world-music scene and collaborated with artists as diverse as Café Tacuba and Don Walser.

Reflecting on the occasion of Kronos Quartet's 25th anniversary, violinist David Harrington explains the group's motivation for such restless innovation: "I've always wanted the string quartet to be vital and energetic and alive and cool and not afraid to kick ass and be absolutely beautiful and ugly if it had to be. But it has to be expression of life -- to tell the story with grace and humor and depth, and to tell the whole story, if possible."

Such dedication to quartet dynamics and to the vitality of the form has resulted in the creation of more than 400 new compositions -- some of which will enthrall concertgoers Wednesday night. The quartet's collaboration brings pieces of music to life, crafting each note carefully, tailoring the music to the moment, to the story that the musicians strive to tell with every note. Expect a disparate selection of contemporary composers with a zinger for the encore. But don't expect some cute version of a rock classic done by a stuffy string quartet -- this isn't the moderne Pops. Listen instead for that verve that has defied categorization for the last 25 years.

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