Chicago Tribune: Spektral throws a new-music disco party

Chicago Tribune: Spektral throws a new-music disco party

The Spektral Quartet likes to put on performances that are not so much concerts as high-energy thrill rides for musically inquisitive listeners. The operative question behind all of them is: What makes a contemporary classical string quartet contemporary? The answers are many and varied, designed to provoke as often as delight.

So it was over the weekend at Constellation, where the virtuosic Chicago foursome presented a program of new and cutting-edge contemporary pieces, including world premieres by Charlie Sdraulic and Andrew McManus. The club was packed with Spektral groupies who were given instruction in how to dance the hustle following the performance.

Chicago Tribune: A quiet, 5-hour marathon scaled by Spektral Quartet at MCA

Chicago Tribune: A quiet, 5-hour marathon scaled by Spektral Quartet at MCA

The Everest of modern string quartets received its Chicago premiere at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday night, and Spektral Quartet gamely scaled it in a mere five hours and eight minutes.

What? That's surely a misprint.

Well, no. Morton Feldman's String Quartet No. 2 (1983) is the longest such piece in the active repertory. Its title page estimates duration to be between five and one-half and six and one-half hours. That is, of continuous music, without a break.

Chicago Classical Review: Spektral Quartet brings refined artistry, impressive stamina to Feldman work

Chicago Classical Review: Spektral Quartet brings refined artistry, impressive stamina to Feldman work

In their first complete performance of Feldman’s quartet, the Spektral members (violinists Clara Lyon and Maeve Feinberg, violist Doyle Armbrust and cellist Russell Rolen) brought tonal refinement, focused ensemble, and a terraced array of dynamics—consistently exploring the extreme degrees of pianissimo where most of the music lives.

Chicago Magazine: How Four Musicians Plan to Survive the Longest String Quartet Ever Written

Illustration:  Ryan Snook

Illustration: Ryan Snook

Six hours onstage, with no intermission and rests barely long enough to sip water. Sounds more like Marina Abramović performance art than a chamber music concert. But that’s precisely what the daring local ensemble Spektral Quartet will undertake on March 11 at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago when the group performs Morton Feldman’s formidable String Quartet No. 2. Lasting somewhere between five and just over six hours, Feldman’s work is the longest in the canonical string quartet repertoire. Here, in anticipation of the performance, the four musicians detail their seven steps for survival.

Pig out

At about 4 p.m. on the day of the event, eat enough to last eight hours. Protein over carbs, which might make Feldman-induced serenity (he’s known for quiet pieces) tip over to food coma.

Read the whole article here

Chicago Reader: Spektral Quartet give the local premiere of Morton Feldman’s String Quartet no. 2, all six hours of it

Chicago Reader: Spektral Quartet give the local premiere of Morton Feldman’s String Quartet no. 2, all six hours of it

The music is exquisitely quiet, so while string players don’t have to exert great pressure on their instruments, they hold their bows for what must feel like an eternity during long tones, which are only occasionally interrupted by pizzicato plucks. With recently enlisted violinist Maeve Feinberg joining Doyle Armbrust, Russell Rolen, and Clara Lyon, Chicago’s Spektral Quartet will provide the long overdue local premiere of the quartet in conjunction with the current Merce Cunningham exhibition “Common Time” (Feldman was one of many brilliant 20th-century composers who collaborated with the choreographer).

Chicago Tribune: Howard Reich's best jazz performances of 2016

(photo: Brian Jackson for Chicago Tribune)

(photo: Brian Jackson for Chicago Tribune)

Miguel Zenon and the Spektral Quartet at Logan Center, Sept. 24: 
The 10th Hyde Park Jazz Festival featured several memorable events, but one stood out: the world premiere of Zenon's "Yo Soy La Tradicion" ("I Am Tradition"), a tour de force of composition, performance and improvisation. Zenon's score was packed with remarkably complex string writing for Chicago's Spektral Quartet, the musicians finessing it all, while Zenon offered freewheeling phrasemaking one moment, carefully scored lines the next.

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- Howard Reich

 

Chicago Tribune: Weekend Ear Taxi Festival events include several winning premieres

(photo: Patrick Gorski)

(photo: Patrick Gorski)

"The work whetted one's ears for one of Thomas' own pieces, "Selene (Moon Chariot Rituals)," a Tanglewood Festival-Third Coast co-commission receiving its Chicago premiere. The impetus of dance is never far from the surface of this exhilarating score, which melds the complementary natures of a percussion quartet and a string quartet to produce a study in inexorable rhythmic dynamism. One of Gusty Thomas' most inventive creations, it drew a supercharged performance from the combined forces of Third Coast and Spektral."


"The Friday evening concert held six world premieres shared by the Spektral Quartet and Ensemble Dal Niente.

A broken cello string early in the performance of George Lewis' String Quartet 1.5: "Experiments in Living" forced the string players to take it again from the top, giving listeners roughly one and a half hearings of the explosive lexicon of noises by the longtime member of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Leaner of texture and much more introverted of expression was a movement from a string-quartet-in-progress by Chicago Symphony Orchestra resident composer Samuel Adams. Snare drums activated by tranducer speakers lent otherworldly rattles to extremely delicate string writing that suffered for lack of a larger musical context.

One had no problem connecting at once with "Prospective Dwellers" by cellist and composer Tomeka Reid, an active presence on the local jazz scene. Jazz-inflected musings and quasi-pop harmonies gave her piece its easy, good-natured appeal. It and its companion pieces elicited incisive readings from the amazing Spektral foursome."

Read the full article here

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

(photo: Brian Jackson for Chicago Tribune)

(photo: Brian Jackson for 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

Strad Magazine: The Spektral’s exploration of musical humour is no laughing matter

Strad Magazine: The Spektral’s exploration of musical humour is no laughing matter

Serious Business, the Chicago-based Spektral Quartet knowingly calls its collection of four pieces exploring humour in music. And there’s no question of the foursome taking any of this music lightly: these are superb performances, vivid and strongly felt, convincingly argued and full of rich, characterful detail.

Gramophone: 'Serious Business'

Gramophone: 'Serious Business'

‘This album is not funny,’ writes Spektral Quartet viola player Doyle Armbrust in his booklet-note about the quartet’s very not-funny new release of music by Sky Maeklay, David Reminick and Chris Fisher-Lochhead, with Haydn plopped down surreally in their midst. The resulting geeky, highly interactive, creative and collaborative fun and games drenched in pop culture are, as advertised, unlike anything its intended audience - or anyone else - has ever heard.