Kronos Quartet with Asha Bholse: You’ve Stolen My Heart

Kronos Quartet deserves a lot of credit for You’ve Stolen My Heart.

In dealing with the music of prolific Indian film composer R.D. Burnam, Kronos eschewed the usual process of comissioning string quartet arrangements and tackled recording of the album itself.

The ensemble complemented its line-up with Wu Man on pipa and Zakir Hussain on percussion. And, of course, Asha Bholse, Burman’s wife and go-to singer for his work, contributed vocals.

Kronos itself didn’t just stop at pressing the record button and letting everyone play — it used the recording studio as an instrument as well.

Kronos members doubled up as keyboard players and percussionists themselves, augmenting the already-expanded group with Farisa organs, autoharps and even electric bass.

And on a number of tracks, Kronos multi-tracked itself to give the illusion of an entire string orchestra, something done previously on the quartet’s excellent Nuevo.

You’ve Stolen My Heart, on paper, has all the elements of a terrific album — incredible instrumentalists, a distinctive vocalist, and music from a composer with a unique ability to bridge Western and sub-continental Asian influences.

And on some level, it is. There’s no doubt You’ve Stolen My Heart is a unique album in Kronos’ oeuvre, and it is wonderfully performed.

But first violinist David Harrington is not a pop music producer. In fact, this album is the first to sport his name as producer, with long-time producer Judith Sherman and Scott Fraser listed as co-producers.

Gustavo Santaoalla, who helmed Kronos’ Nuevo, coaxed a dazzling performance from the group, and Nuevo shares with You’ve Stolen My Heart similar ambition.

While You’ve Stolen My Heart is a beautifully performed and recorded album, a certain punch inherent in the music just seems missing.

By contrast, a live performance on public radio with much of the same material revealed that same punch. It sounded immediate and passionate. The recording, on the other hand, sounds far too measured.

You’ve Stolen My Heart gets high marks in terms of Kronos stretching out and taking its biggest risks in its 30+ years. But Harrington probably could have sought someone of Santaoalla’s caliber to bring out the fire in Burman’s music.