Music News & Reviews

Kruger Brothers concerto traces connections between bluegrass and classical music

The Kruger Brothers perform with Kontras Quartet at last year’s Wide Open Bluegrass.
The Kruger Brothers perform with Kontras Quartet at last year’s Wide Open Bluegrass. Julie Macie | Kruger Brothers

Jens Kruger has some experience with dreams.

Along with his brother, Uwe, he dreamed of playing music, and the Kruger Brothers band was launched in their native Switzerland. They then dreamed of living in the homeland of one of their idols, Doc Watson, so they moved to North Wilkesboro in 2003.

“America, for me, always was a place where people fulfill their dreams,” Kruger said. “As a musician, I always look at life as a dream. It passes like a dream, and you’re also observing it. And if you take charge of your life, it becomes a lucid dream.”

That idea of a dream you control was the inspiration for Kruger’s latest concerto for the Kruger Brothers and a string quartet. Titled “Lucid Dreamer,” the concerto was commissioned through Chamber Music America by Kontras Quartet, a Chicago-based group that has partnered with the Kruger Brothers for previous concertos.

The 30-minute piece will debut Saturday afternoon.

“Our home is North Carolina, but our music brings us to different places,” Kruger said. While much of the concerto reflects the sounds of his adopted home, “now I also have musical fragments of different cultures in there, cultures of places we wish to visit or have visited.”

It’s not every day that you hear a classical quartet paired with a band that prominently features a banjo and guitar. But where some might see it as an unusual combination, Kruger sees it as two sides of the same coin.

“For me as a musician, I don’t make these distinctions,” he said, noting that so much of what we consider folk music today has roots in classical traditions.

Kontras Quartet and the Kruger Brothers have exchanged ideas by phone and computer and had a handful of rehearsals before Saturday’s debut. But a premiere can be just as surprising for the composer as it is for the audience, Kruger said.

He’s looking forward to playing the concerto for musician friends who will be in attendance who know only that Kruger has been working on it for nearly a year.

“It’s really exciting because they have no idea what’s coming,” he said with a hearty laugh.

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