This Is What A Classical Concert Can Be

This Is What A Classical Concert Can Be

We created the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS series as a way to draw you further inside the music...something beyond you sitting politely with your hands folded in your lap. We've been astounded by the response to this interactive (and...shhhhh...don't tell anyone...FUN!) concert format, and the fact that it was launched with some, at times, seriously heady music (Schoenberg), we know it's a keeper.

You Painted Your Feelings!

You Painted Your Feelings!

What a way to close the 2017/18 season! We are still riding high from the vibe at our final Close Encounters event, Paint Your Feelings!and are eager to fill you in soon on what we have in store for you next season. First and foremost, we were taken aback by how LOCKED IN you all were while painting. We'd finish a piece, and it would be silent...with you all feverishly brushing away at your creations. I guess we could have known that our audience is made up of a bunch of secretly-talented painters.

Chicago Classical Review: Spektral Quartet wraps Schoenberg series with metal virtuosity

"How many string quartets are there today that can make late Schoenberg seem like heavy metal?The Spektral Quartet wrapped its season-long survey of Arnold Schoenberg’s string quartets Sunday afternoon at the Art Institute. It’s a testament to the ensemble’s devoted local following that Fullerton Hall was quite respectably filled for a program that didn’t exactly cater to populist tastes.
A superb coda to the group’s ambitious and distinguished Schoenberg series. One looks forward to seeing what the Spektral Quartet will cook up for the 2018-19 season."


Read the entire article here


Reconditioning the String Quartet: An Interview with Wadada Leo Smith

Reconditioning the String Quartet: An Interview with Wadada Leo Smith

There are certain artists with whom you dream of coming into orbit, and Wadada Leo Smith is finally in our galaxy. Clara and I went to see his trio play Constellation a while back, when the Cubs were winning at sportsball or whatever – so it was a small house – and both of us were struck by the patience and nuance with which he infused his performance. Every note felt purposeful and considered, and more importantly, honest.

Chicago Tribune: Spektral Quartet confirms Schoenberg's power in stirring concert

(photo credit: Erin Hooley for Chicago Tribune)

(photo credit: Erin Hooley for Chicago Tribune)

"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."

Read the entire review here

Escaping the Straightjackets of the Past: A Conversation with soprano Kiera Duffy

Escaping the Straightjackets of the Past: A Conversation with soprano Kiera Duffy

When we programmed Arnold Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2 for this season, we decided to shoot for the moon in the soprano realm. We're still a little astonished that Kiera Duffy agreed to join us, given that the bands that typically lay claim to her calendar include the Berlin Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and the Lyric Opera. In addition to a profound fluency in 20th century and contemporary music, we should say that Kiera is also a most chill hang. Rehearsals have been artistically stimulating, and also gut-bustingly entertaining. Schoenberg's 2nd is a life-and-perspective-altering piece for all of us, so we thought we'd ask her to go a little deeper on the subject.

WFMT: 10 Best Live Performances in 2017

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In 2017, we – alongside our friends in Third Coast Percussion and Lincoln Trio – played live on WFMT to celebrate each group's having been nominated for a Grammy Award last year. We're pleased to share that the station has included that broadcast as one of its '10 Best Live Performances at WFMT in 2017!'

Listen to all of the Top 10 broadcasts here

Chicago Tribune: Chicagoans of the Year 2017

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"Chicago’s Spektral Quartet continues to explode the stereotype of how a classical string quartet should behave.

Violinists Clara Lyon and Maeve Feinberg, violist Doyle Armbrust and cellist Russell Rolen make it their mission to break free of constraints so that they might pull in new and more diverse listeners to the music they love.

Even for a polished chamber group that’s known for its boldly creative ways, 2017 was a watershed, and its singular achievements made the Spektral our choice as outstanding classical ensemble of the year.

No other local group made new and unfamiliar music so compelling an aural adventure. And not just new music: The Spektral brought as much finely calibrated vitality to Haydn as it did to Elliott Carter.

Its biggest coup of the year was a performance of Morton Feldman’s visionary five-hour String Quartet No. 2 (1983), in March at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Spektral’s acute concentration stopped time in its tracks.

October marked the launch of another cutting-edge Spektral venture, a season-long cycle of the four demanding string quartets of Arnold Schoenberg.

The real game-changer, however, was the quartet’s launch of three new concert series bringing fresh formats to unusual venues across the city.

The Dovetail series aims to foster cultural exchanges on the South Side, just as Once More, With Feeling tucks a composer conversation between performances of that composer’s music.

Then there’s Close Encounters, a series that includes everything from a concert with cocktails in a private Frank Lloyd Wright home, to painting instruction from an art professor while you listen to the quartet performing a commissioned work.

Just the sort of hip interdisciplinary mashup Spektral can bring off better than just about any other classical string quartet around, and a prime example of how the group made the impossible possible in 2017."

Read about all of the Tribune's 'Chicagoans of the Year' here