Kronos Quartet & Wu Man - The Cusp of Magic (4 stars)

Kronos Quartet & Wu Man - The Cusp of Magic



The music of Terry Riley has run through the repertoire of the acclaimed contemporary music specialists the Kronos Quartet like a thread. No surprise, then, that they should have chosen to mark the composer’s 70th birthday with a commission for a significant new addition to his canon. The Cusp of Magic is a six-part exploration of a bewildering but ingeniously integrated range of world music idioms, written for the string quartet plus the Chinese virtuoso Wu Man, playing another string instrument, the lute-like pipa.

The colourful and exotic range of sonorities investigated in the course of the music draws on an imaginative synthesis of western and eastern music that is highly characteristic of Riley, as is the distinctly ritualistic and spiritual atmosphere evoked by much of the music. The addition of sounds generated by various children’s toys underlines the almost child-like sense of wonder seeping through this sophisticated music.


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