Fifty for the Future
Jan 28, 2015

Fifty for the Future

orange triangle

The Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association is pleased to announce an exciting new commissioning initiative—50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire. Beginning in the 2015/16 season, Kronos’ 50 for the Future will commission a collection of 50 new works—ten per year for five years—devoted to the most recent approaches to the string quartet, designed expressly for the training of students and emerging professionals. The works will be commissioned from an eclectic group of composers—25 men and 25 women—and the collection will represent the truly globe-spanning state of the art of the string quartet in the 21st century.

Kronos will premiere each work and create companion materials, including recordings, video, performance notes, and composer interviews. All of Kronos’ 50 for the Future project materials—including scores and parts—will be distributed online and made available at no charge, in perpetuity. In the forward-looking spirit of Kronos’ decades-long history, 50 for the Future will present string quartet music as a living art form, providing emerging musicians with both an indispensable library of learning, and a blueprint for their own future collaborations with composers.

Kronos, Carnegie Hall, and an adventurous list of partners which includes presenters, academic institutions, foundations and individuals, will join forces to support this exciting new string quartet commissioning, performance, education, and legacy project of unprecedented scope and potential impact. Through jointly designed master classes, workshops, and residencies, Kronos will work with each of these core partners to extend the reach of their own educational programs within their communities.


Fifty for the Future addresses a vital need in the world of chamber music performance. While there are abundant resources for young string players who wish to specialize in the canon of works from Haydn through the great composers of the 20th century, there is no coordinated body of work designed to train students and emerging professionals in the techniques and approaches required to master our own century’s string quartet literature.

Kronos’ 50 for the Future commissions will be graded in difficulty, from beginner through professional level, enabling young quartets to develop as players by working their way up through the ascending levels of complexity and technical challenge. Each composition will typically be 5–15 minutes in length and represent a fully realized musical work, to be programmed amid the other repertoire in Kronos’ own touring season.

Each of the 50 compositions will be available online in a stand-alone module, offering the downloadable score and parts along with a variety of materials specific to the work, such as:

  • Audio and/or video recording of Kronos performing the composition, either live or in studio
  • Additional video clips and diagrams illustrating special techniques
  • Video, audio, and/or written interviews with the composer and the members of Kronos discussing the work, from original inspiration to preparation for performance
  • Additional web links to background information (e.g., on the composer, source materials for the composition, and/or special techniques used in performing the work)
Illustration by Haley Nordeen

Says Janet Cowperthwaite, Managing Director of the Kronos Performing Arts Association, “As Kronos/Kronos Performing Arts Association (KPAA) enters its Fifth Decade, we are incredibly pleased to be launching the largest artistic and organizational undertaking in our history - Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire. Building on Kronos’ more than 40-year success in working with both a wide range of immensely creative composers and a dedicated, adventurous group of presenters, funders and other partner organizations, this project exemplifies the curiosity, ingenuity, and diversity that has been the hallmark of Kronos’ vision and artistic output since day one."


For more than four decades, the Kronos Quartet has collaborated with composers representing the highest level of artistic excellence, along with tremendous stylistic and cultural diversity. The first ten 50 for the Future composers, five men and five women, will write pieces for Kronos to premiere during the 2015/16 season. An eclectic group of unique and extraordinary voices, they hail from around the globe:

Franghiz Ali-Zadeh – Azerbaijan
Ken Benshoof – USA
Fodé Lassana Diabaté – Mali
Rhiannon Giddens – USA
Yotam Haber – Netherlands / Israel / USA
Garth Knox – Ireland / France
Tanya Tagaq – Canada
Merlijn Twaalfhoven – Netherlands
Aleksandra Vrebalov – Serbia / USA
Wu Man – China / USA

Says David Harrington, Artistic Director of Kronos, “What would happen if we could, through our years of working with hundreds of composers from many places, make a body of incredibly interesting, fun music that could serve the next generation as a launching pad to a world of discovery?

“I see a need for a thought-out and comprehensive primer, created by some of our very best collaborators. This primer is in part inspired by Béla Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, which he wrote for his son as an entry point to piano studies. Now Kronos has access to a worldwide community of exceptionally creative people capable of making a multi-faceted introduction for the youngest enthusiasts among us. We’re trying to use all of our experience to create a body of music for future generations.

“Our idea is that as we’re touring and playing these 50 pieces, Kronos will be working with and mentoring younger quartets, and the music will begin to appear in concerts of other groups all over the place; being played in homes, in schools, art galleries, concert halls, wherever music is played and listened to.”


As a highlight of its partnership with Carnegie Hall, Kronos Quartet will hold the position of the Richard and Barbara Debs Creative Chair for the 2015/16 season. For the Hall’s 125th anniversary season, Kronos assumes a role that has been annually engaged by Carnegie Hall’s Debs Composer’s Chair, serving as the Hall’s primary advocate for the commissioning, writing, preparation, and performance of new music that represents a broad spectrum of composers and repertoire. As a central part of its Debs Creative Chair residency, Kronos will perform at Zankel Hall in April 2016; the program will include a 50 for the Future commission to be announced. During that month, Kronos will also lead a week-long workshop with three young quartets, presented by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, focusing primarily on 50 for the Future repertoire. The workshop will culminate in a public performance by the young ensembles at Zankel Hall.


Lead Partner:

Carnegie Hall (New York, New York, USA)*

Legacy Partners:

Aga Khan Music Initiative (Geneva, Switzerland)*
Cal Performances University of California (Berkeley, California, USA)*
Cornish College of the Arts (Seattle, Washington, USA)*
Harris Theater for Music and Dance (Chicago, Illinois, USA)*
Holland Festival (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)*
Kaufman Music Center’s Face the Music (New York, New York, USA)*
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts / University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, USA)
New York University Abu Dhabi Arts Center (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Serious / Barbican (United Kingdom)*
Washington Performing Arts (Washington, DC, USA)*

Commissioning Partners:

21C Music Festival at The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto, Canada)
Philharmonic Society of Orange County (Irvine, California, USA)
Seattle Theatre Group (Seattle, Washington, USA)

*KPAA Institutional Partners