Founded in 2010, the Spektral Quartet is widely regarded as one of Chicago’s most magnetic and forward-thinking chamber ensembles. The group’s inclusive approach to concert format, shifting the role of audience member from spectator to ally, has earned it a loyal following within and beyond the city limits.
Since its inception, the Spektral Quartet has sought out the discourse between the masterworks of the traditional canon and those written this decade, this year, or this week. Rather than simply pairing Brian Ferneyhough with Josef Haydn or Thomas Adès with Béla Bartók, though, the group offers listeners an even more elastic and absorbing experience through its Sampler Pack concert format. For these performances, shorter works and single movements are curated in a setlist containing a menagerie of musical styles, spanning centuries. The unexpected similarities and enticing contrasts between two or three composers becomes a conversation between twelve.
The 2013/14 season found Spektral Quartet venturing into the intersection of music and everyday life with its Mobile Miniatures project. For it, forty composers from across the US including David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly and Shulamit Ran were commissioned to write ringtone-length pieces for the quartet to workshop, record and make available to the public for download to mobile devices. 2013/14 also saw the release of the group’s first two full-length albums: Chambers,spotlighting the work of living, Chicago-based composers, and the South American-themed From This Point Forward with bandoneon/accordion virtuoso Julien Labro.
For its 2014/15 season, AMPLIFY, the quartet unveils its four largest-scale commissions to date as well as centerpieces from the traditional canon. These adventurous new works push the ensemble into uncharted and thrilling new territory: Artistic, in the case of David Reminick, whose five-movement new work features the musicians singing and playing simultaneously. Collaborative, for Anthony Cheung’s quintet, which partners the group for the first time with International Contemporary Ensemble founder and flutist, Claire Chase. Contextual, with Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s mining of the timbres and cadences of comedy stars like Bill Cosby, Dave Chappelle, and Tig Notaro. And Experiential, in Alex Temple’s tour through scenes of gender fluidity, featuring indie luminary Julia Holter. With its commitment to an equal footing in the traditional canon and new music, essential entries from eras past balance out the quartet’s season with names such as Beethoven, Ligeti, Haydn, Crumb, Dvořák, and more.
The Spektral Quartet serves as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago and was invited in 2013 to join the Rush Hour Series’s Back-of-the-Yards project, which offers year-long music education and outreach in one of Chicago’s most under-served neighborhoods.