Humour in music can be in short supply but the Spektral Quartet did its best to remedy that in an upbeat evening celebrating its recent CD release. Cellist Russell Rolen introduced Sky Macklay’s Many Many Cadences: (2014), grinningly referring to it as ‘sadistic’. Macklay’s dazzling exercise sounds as if she collected the endings to dozens of works and then grafted them together in a series of descending scales. If it is sadistic for the musicians, it is sheer pleasure for listeners, especially with the Spektral players’ ear-tickling precision.
A composer who is also a violinist and violist, Chris Fisher-Lochhead has a keen interest in speech patterns, and his study of the phonetics of stand-up comedians resulted in a ZZZ-part study called Hack. The quartet performed the final four, based on the rhythms of Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Ms Pat and Tig Notaro, all done with a conversational gusto.
The evening opened with the finale of Haydn’s op.33 no.2, the ‘Joke’ Quartet, so deftly assured that one longed for the other three movements (which thankfully appear on the recording). More ‘old music’ appeared later: a warmly ingratiating reading of Schubert’s Quartettsatz D703.
Three excerpts from David Reminick’s Ancestral Mousetrap (2014), using poems by Russell Edson, made an entertaining close. As a giddy encore, the group showed an imaginative video synchronised with the eponymous final movement, showing rapid-fire images of mice - not only real mice but also animated and stuffed ones.
- Bruce Hodges