The Kronos Quartet has never had much use for the decorum and stylistic purity expected of a classical string ensemble, but on last year’s terrific Nuevo (Nonesuch) the group pulled out all the stops, transforming itself into something just short of a pop band. The album surveys the broad range of music, from classical to kitsch, produced in Mexico over the last century–an idea inspired by the disparate sounds that violinist David Harrington heard in the streets on a stroll through Mexico City. Composer Osvaldo Golijov, who arranged most of the pieces, found resourceful ways for the string quartet to adapt: on the woozy pop tune “Perfidia,” the members’ parts are overdubbed to make them sound like the schmaltzy 101 Strings Orchestra (Carlos Garcia, a street musician, plays the melody by blowing on the edge of an ivy leaf). On the space-age-bachelor-pad classic “Miniskirt,” Kronos doesn’t re-create Esquivel’s wacky stereo effects, but it does pile on the vibrato, add some percussive interjections, and toss in a “groovy” here and there. And for the wild banda “El Sinaloense,” producer Gustavo Santaolalla distorts the strings to mimic the dynamic brass-heavy palette of Banda el Recodo, the Mexican institution who made that song a hit–the music sounds like it’s playing through the crappy PA system of a police car. The quartet even takes liberties with a straightforward classical piece like Silvestre Revuelta’s “Sensemaya,” whittling down the original orchestral score and adding a percussion ensemble. The program will consist primarily of pieces from Nuevo, including all those mentioned above; prerecorded elements will be used to simulate the album versions. Wednesday, February 19, 6 and 8 PM, Fullerton Hall, Art Institute of Chicago, Michigan and Adams; 312-575-8000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jay Blakesberg.