"The first great upheaval in modern concert life occurred more than a century ago, in Vienna, with the 1908 premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet, which elicited booing, heckling and laughter.
Audiences today are much more polite, though the consequences of the score’s emancipation of dissonance still are felt in concert halls, as many listeners are yet to warm to music that Schoenberg and his disciples felt was historically necessary.
But few can warm to scores that are not being played, so the Spektral Quartet has created an important series of programs presenting all four Schoenberg quartets surrounded by some of the richest music written by others around the same time. Saturday night’s stirring concert at the University of Chicago’s Fulton Recital Hall placed the Schoenberg Second Quartet among works by Anton Webern and Bela Bartok.
There was to have been a progression from the first work Webern wrote under Schoenberg’s tutelage, the “Langsamer Satz” of 1905, to Bartok’s First Quartet, which was contemporaneous with Schoenberg’s Second (on the concert’s bottom half). But travel considerations because of snow forced some rearranging of the order of pieces, with Bartok ending the program, creating a slight letdown.
Not that the playing was anything but ardent, precise and expressive throughout. Yet many in the audience were in no mood for anything after the transcendent Schoenberg and did not return from intermission. This was an unexpected confirmation of the Schoenberg’s power. All it requires are keen and committed performers, which it got in the Spektral and soprano Kiera Duffy."
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