"...All were formidable, none more so than the Spektral Quartet’s free Sunday afternoon show at Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago. The foursome of Austin Wulliman, Clara Lyon, Doyle Armbrust and Russell Rolen focuses on new music, but isn’t beholden to it. Their latest, chirpy release on the Sono Luminus label, “Serious Business,” quizzically looks at musical humor through three works from the last two years, and a fourth by an up-and-comer named Franz Josef Haydn.
Straiter laces prevailed here for an engrossing program, “Prismatic Memory.” The quartet proved that they have everything: a supreme technical command that seems to come easily; a capacity to make complicated music clear; and, most notably on this occasion, an ability to cast a magic spell of silence over a restless, gallery-going audience.
The first potion was the premiere of “Bagatellen” (2015) by Hans Thomalla, who teaches at Northwestern University. In the third of nine tight, hushed miniatures, a trill was stretched out, slowly obliterated; in the fourth, a chorale became immobile, yet still comprehensible; the last was a brushing arioso, bowed on the instruments’ bodies, necks and tuning pegs.
The players brought a similarly un-self-conscious approach to the extended techniques in Beat Furrer’s String Quartet No. 3 (2004), an enveloping, bona fide masterpiece that stretches over 50 uninterrupted minutes. For some reason, the reputation of the Swiss-born Mr. Furrer has not properly crossed the Atlantic. It should..."