Home Read Classic Album Review: Kronos Quartet / Terry Riley | Requiem for Adam

Classic Album Review: Kronos Quartet / Terry Riley | Requiem for Adam

The avant-garde ensemble & the minimalist composer make music for lost souls.


This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


The avant-garde string ensemble Kronos Quartet may still be best known for their deconstructionist covers of Jimi Hendrix and Duke Ellington. Lately, though, they’ve been making some of the most intensely personal music of their career — elegies for deceased loved ones, penned by minimalist pioneer and longtime collaborator Terry Riley.

Requiem for Adam, the third of The Requiem Quartets, was written in memory of first violinist David Harrington’s 16-year-old son, who died of a brain hemmorhage while hiking in the mountains. Interestingly — and, ultimately, fittingly — the three-act piece adopts a tone more celebratory than funereal, with ascending motifs to suggest his climb to serenity and raucously noisy percussion passages to symbolize the rebellious energy of youth. Capped by the passionate Requiem and postscripted with a Riley piano piece titled The Philosopher’s Hand — an improvisation in memory of another deceased loved one — Adam represents some of the most beautiful and moving music Kronos doubtlessly wish they never had to make.