Live Painting of Hyde Park Jazz with Miguel Zenón

Credit: Brian Jackson / Chicago Tribune

Credit: Brian Jackson / Chicago Tribune

We are still glowing after our debut at Hyde Park Jazz, performing Miguel Zenón's "Yo Soy La Tradición" to an enthusiastic and packed house! Miguel's eight-movement suite, steeped in traditional music from his native Puerto Rico, is deceptively challenging in its rhythmic and harmonic complexity...and when you're on stage performing with the composer blowing solos that can melt steel...well, it was a thrill ride in every sense of the term.

You may have seen Howard Reich's review in the Chicago Tribune, in which he boldly states that Miguel should submit this piece for Pulitzer consideration. All we can say is, we concur with Howard. It is a riveting piece that curves through blistering virtuosity and elegant lyricism with total ease.

One unexpected highlight of the show was being approached after we left the stage by artist Lewis Achenbach, founder of the Jazz Occurrence project. Lewis draws in real-time during performances, and we were really taken by his kinetic chalk renditions of our quintet. We thought you might like to take a peek:

Chicago Tribune: Hyde Park Jazz Festival review - Music embraces a neighborhood

Photo credit: Brian Jackson / Chicago Tribune

Photo credit: Brian Jackson / Chicago Tribune

The centerpiece of the festival brings a capacity audience to a hush for the world premiere of Zenon's "Yo Soy La Tradicion" ("I Am Tradition"). Commissioned for the occasion by the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the piece elegantly blurs distinctions among jazz, classical and folkloric music. Substantive yet accessible, rhythmically intense but often melodically soaring, "Yo Soy La Tradicion" shows Zenon — as in previous work — finding inspiration in the musical, cultural and religious rituals of his native Puerto Rico. Yet this is no kitschy appropriation of familiar dance forms. Instead, Zenon has crafted a vast work in which meter, tempo, texture and instrumental technique are in constant flux. Certain passages bristle with complex interactions between Zenon and the Spektral Quartet. Others prove disarmingly direct by virtue of their poetic melodies or buoyant rhythms or extended passages of hand claps for all the musicians. Zenon has built forward motion into the string writing so deftly that you never really miss the rhythm-section accompaniment that typically drives small-ensemble jazz. It's a major work that ought to be recorded, and Zenon should enter it for the Pulitzer Prize music competition.

Read the whole article here

A League of Extraordinary Violinists (Part II): Eliot Heaton

A League of Extraordinary Violinists (Part II): Eliot Heaton

Next up in the cadre of phenomenal violinists sitting in with us at the top of this season is Eliot Heaton, who was recently named concertmaster of Michigan Opera Theatre. Before he launches into his first concert there (Bizet's Carmen), Eliot is joining us for our appearance at Hyde Park Jazz (9/24/16), during which we'll be world-premiering Miguel Zenón's Yo Soy La Tradición. We had an absurdly good time working with Eliot this summer for our Parks District project, and can't wait to dig into Miguel's blistering tunes with him.

What better way to introduce you to this incredible talent than through a chat with Eliot himself!

Spektralcurricular |Event 01|: White Sox Game

Spektralcurricular |Event 01|: White Sox Game

We are launching a new, extra-musical element to the Spektral season this year: Spektralcurricular. What is it, you ask? It's a quarterly hang with the quartet doing something awesome that doesn't involve our instruments. There's never enough time after a show to have a real convo with our audience – who we love like Kanye loves Kanye – so we'll be setting up nerdy field trips and boozy hangs to accomplish just that.

A League of Extraordinary Violinists (Part I): MingHuan Xu

A League of Extraordinary Violinists (Part I): MingHuan Xu

As we traverse the audition experience to find our new violinist – a process which has been way more entertaining than we ever expected, by the way – we have a few shows at the top of the 2016/17 season for which we'll need subs. The Spektral Quartet Trio is not a viable option for most presenters, apparently.

Fortunately, we happen to know a deep roster of outstanding violinists, and we're using this as an excellent excuse to play with them. First up is MingHuan Xu, who audiences will know from her performances as a member of Ensemble Dal Niente as well her duo appearances with pianist Winston Choi (with whom we're playing quite a bit this season!).

Always Read the Comments

Photo credit: David Bontumasi

Photo credit: David Bontumasi

Earlier this summer we were invited to perform at the Ravenswood Manor Park concert series – a charming series in which Rolling Stones cover bands are the more typical fare – and we had one of the most charming summer shows in our history. The skaters who took a break from kickflips to creep up behind us for a listen to Schubert, and the three-year-old kid who danced his little heart out really made playing with the sun in our eyes totally worth it.

Some days later we received an email from a woman who found herself amongst the picnic blankets that night. She authors a gratitude blog, and felt inspired to capture her experience while listening to us steer through Mendelssohn and Reich. Having a member of the audience put her thoughts to virtual paper, so thoughtfully and poignantly, is something both lovely and unique.

Below is an excerpt from Deborah Hawkins's No Small Thing blog. If you feel inspired to write up your own review or thoughts on one of our shows, send it to us...we love it!

"On this perfect mid-summer night’s eve, in a park only blocks from where I spend far too many nights on my couch tuned in to whatever options Comcast is offering, I gave in to the spell of the Spektral Quartet.

Here were top-notch musicians bowing their way through works by Schubert and Steven Reich (a peer of Phillip Glass).

Even before a member of the group shared a few remarks about their philosophy, I had already slipped into appreciation mode. It seems, in grokking on this site-specific concert, I was the perfect audience for what they wanted to impart.

When sitting down to listen to trained musicians, it’s automatic to tune up your listening senses.

The precision of their runs, their changing pace and dynamics seemed to render the natural noises of the environment (the sound of the descending gates at the nearby train crossing, pets and their people enjoying the park) especially BEAUTIFUL."

 

Read the entire piece here

Spektral Summer Reading List 2016: Part II

Spektral Summer Reading List 2016: Part II

Welcome to Part II of our Summer Reading List, featuring book recommendations from some of today's brightest artistic minds! You can find Part I here.

Nadia Sirota (yMusic, ACM, Alarm Will Sound Violist, Q2: Meet the Composer Host)
Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
"This book is so fucking great. It’s a sort of rags to riches story about Lilliet Berne, a self-made, secretly American, former prostitute star of the Paris Opera in the late 19th century. All I ever wanna read is like historical fiction and shit about kids trying to make it in showbiz and omigod does this scratch that itch. Plus it’s written good."

Tim Munro (Flutist, Raconteur)
And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer
"A page-turning detective novel where the detectives are musicologists, and the dead body is a newly-discovered (fictional) Bach Cantata, one with an abhorrently anti-Semitic text...need I say more?"

Spektral Summer Reading List 2016: Part I

Spektral Summer Reading List 2016: Part I

We asked our musician friends and fellow creatives for their BEST recommendations for summer reading, and WOWZERS did they deliver! Wondering what the 1st violinist of the Guarneri Quartet, director of the Pitchfork Festival, and New Yorker Magazine classical critic think you should bring to the beach? Dig in, and call your local bookstore to have them ready the forklift!

Arnold Steinhardt (Guarneri Quartet 1st violinist)
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
"I just finished reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. It is part of her or his Neapolitan Novels, a series of books that tracks the friendship of two girls through their lives. I said his or her because nobody knows who Elena Ferrante really is. The story takes place in Naples, Italy in the 1950’s. Warning: the dazzling writing and the heart stopping action is addicting. I’ve just started the second novel, The Story of a New Name."

Mike Reed (Drummer, Composer, Pitchfork Festival Founding Director)
Spinning Blues Into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records by Nadine Cohodas
"I’m hoping to finish the book Spinning Blues Into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records. I’m always trying to find the deeper histories of Chicago and it’s translation into the music communities that were created here. Since the city is one built on segregation it also helps to show the connectivity that people don’t see or have forgotten."

Announcing our violinist transition for the 2016/17 Season

Dear friends,

Today we announce important news, and we want you to be among the first to know. Austin Wulliman, a founding member of our ensemble and our violinist for the past six years, is leaving Chicago to pursue a career in contemporary music as a new member of the JACK Quartet.

While the departure of a member is complex, we're embracing this moment as an opportunity to grow as an ensemble, and we look toward the future with enthusiasm. We will continue to produce and perform programs that create vibrant and inviting conversation between the music of today and the beloved repertoire of the past, in a concert style that is intimate and personal. We are tremendously excited about our current candidates for the position and the accomplishments, versatility, and love of chamber music they embody. We wish Austin much happiness and the best of luck in his new pursuit, and look forward to introducing you to our newest member soon.

Austin would like to add:

"When we first started, I never could have predicted everything we've done together since founding Spektral Quartet. From the musical conversation between commissions and the standard quartet literature, to building our community in Chicago, as well as our teaching at the University of Chicago and beyond, I'm proud to have been a part of it. While my musical adventure takes me to a new city with a dedicated focus on new music, I eagerly await hearing and seeing the innovative and richly varied programs Spektral presents next."

Austin will continue performing with us during the transition, and there won't be any interruption to our scheduled concerts for the 2016/17 season.

All the best,
The Spektrals

"Projects as games": An interview with composer Tomás Gueglio-Saccone

"Projects as games": An interview with composer Tomás Gueglio-Saccone

If you've been to Spektral concert, you've no doubt bumped in to composer Tomás Gueglio-Saccone (you should really watch where you're going, Bumpy McStumbleton). Tomás has been a friend and advocate since the earliest days of the quartet, and we are happy to be gently funneling his Decals II into your ears on June 12th. Tomás has a few things to say on the subject of said funneling: