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Big Ears 2015: The Best of the Festival

on March 31, 2015, 12:00am
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Most “Magical” Performance

Kronos Quartet & Wu Man play Terry Riley’s The Cusp of Magic


Friday, 9:00 p.m., Tennessee Theatre

The Cusp of Magic is a later-career work for Terry Riley, released when he was already in his 70s, but it’s full of childlike wonder. Kronos Quartet and Wu Man — his collaborators on the project — brought that sense of wonder to the Tennessee Theatre for the opening night of Big Ears and performed the album in its full six movements. Seeing the legendary and always classy Kronos Quartet surrounded by children’s toys on stage was a strange juxtaposition, but it would all make sense as the show progressed. The third movement, “The Nursery”, uses all kinds of old toys and noisemakers to contribute to the feeling that the title conjures — rubber chickens, squeaky toys, stuffed animals, toy violins, See ‘n’ Say toys, etc. It’s rare to see an audience laugh at a classical music performance, but it was entirely appropriate while watching these world-class musicians play with toys. Couple that with the precise brilliance of each member of the quartet throughout the performance plus Wu Man pulling double duty with singing and playing pipa – it made for quite a magical performance.

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