That said, there is no finer string quartet in Chicago than Spektral Quartet. With the superb violinist Lyon joining Spektral a year ago (replacing Aurelien Pederzoli), the group seems to be playing with even greater intensity, cohesion and flexibility. And, as Saturday’s concert demonstrated, while many celebrated new-music ensembles necessarily perform a great deal of not-so-good music, Spektral’s batting average is consistently high, displaying an adroit selection of young and contemporary composers.
That Clara Lyon is a strong addition to an already imposing lineup was evident in the opening performance of Schubert’s Quartetsatz. In the first violin part, she led her colleagues in this taut single movement with a bold yet sweet tone that conveyed Schubert’s gracious lyricism as much as the biting drama, backed by pinpoint articulation and alert ensemble.
Ryan Ingebritsen’s “3 Birds” section from his 4×4 proved especially rewarding. With the composer working the laptop, all four players were amplified, each spread out to the corners of the audience. The viola begins a solo line of bowed long notes, which eventually passes to each violin in turn, then the cello. Spacious yet concentrated, the music grows in amplified, slightly distorted volume as the individual string lines slowly rise, fall and coalesce. There is a haunting quality to this unsettling music with a ghostly wail-like expression, followed by hard pizzicatos and a highly rhythmic section. Ingebritsen’s stark yet compelling music was given first-class advocacy and played with the utmost concentration by the Spektral Quartet members.
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