The Kronos Quartet has for years cultivated a chimeric image: is it a highbrow ensemble with pop leanings, or a crossover group with classical expertise? Yet whatever its methods and motivations may be, the Kronos Quartet has blurred musical categories for decades and attracted interest from audiences who might never have otherwise encountered a string quartet. Respected for its charisma and innovation, Kronos was founded at Mills College in 1973Read more by violinist David Harrington. By the end of the 1970s, violinist John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt, and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud rounded out the group's original personnel. Since then, Kronos has aggressively commissioned new music, including over 450 of its repertory of 600 pieces. This unprecedented zeal for commissioning has been credited with reviving and revitalizing the otherwise stagnating medium of the string quartet.
The ensemble made a strong impression with guest appearances on recordings by Warren Benson, Dane Rudhyar, and David Grisman before cutting its own debut on the Sounds Wonderful label in 1982. Since then, Kronos has recorded over 30 albums for Nonesuch, receiving six Grammy nominations and one award for Best New Composition, (Different Trains by Steve Reich). Kronos specializes in performing modern and contemporary music, music by jazz pioneers Ornette Coleman and John Zorn, and artists as varied as Jimi Hendrix, Anton Webern, and Béla Bartók. The group has devoted entire albums to such diverse figures as Thelonious Monk (Monk Suite, 1985), Bill Evans (Music of Bill Evans, 1986), Alfred Schnittke (The Complete String Quartets, 1998), and Philip Glass (on several discs, including Dracula, 1999). For its recording of Black Angels (1990), the quartet provided spirited, effective accompaniment to a scratchy, decades-old recording of American iconoclast composer Charles Ives singing one of his own songs.
Kronos has been profiled on the television show CBS Sunday Morning, has produced its own syndicated radio program that combined interview and performance segments, and has been consistently nominated for Grammy awards.
In 1999 Jeanrenaud began a sabbatical leave, and before it was over she had resigned, no longer wishing to maintain Kronos' active travel, performance, and rehearsal schedule. Jeanrenaud was replaced by Jennifer Culp, who remained with the quartet until 2005, after which Jeffrey Zeigler joined as Kronos' cellist. Read less