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CLASSICAL: A Spektral residency
Chicago's Spektral Quartet gave its first performance just a little more than two years ago, and it's since established a reputation for mixing standard string-quartet repertoire with new music from composers such as Lee Hyla, George Flynn, and Hans Thomalla. The group—cellist Russell Rolen, violist Doyle Armbrust, and violinists Aurelian Fort Pederzoli and Austin Wulliman—is part of a growing wave of inventive new-music start-ups, the kind that tend to organize their own concerts at unconventional spaces and perform or premiere work by young composers. This approach is no longer particularly radical, and even when it was new it was hardly a guarantee of success—which makes it stunning news that the Spektral Quartet has been named ensemble in residence at the University of Chicago, beginning with the 2012-'13 season.
"We consider ourselves lucky and honored to be working at such a venerable institution," Rolen says. "We will be overseeing and coaching the chamber-music program, giving workshops each quarter, playing as core members of the department of music's New Music Ensemble, collaborating with faculty and student composers, leading sectionals for their orchestras, and performing three or four full quartet programs." The appointment will help sustain the group financially, he notes, but the affiliation is worth more than the money.
The Spektral Quartet has also scheduled a full season of local and midwestern concerts independent of the university. The group sees its mission as bigger than just mixing old and new work—it also wants to dispense with the highbrow atmosphere that often prevents young listeners from engaging with classical music. "For us, there is no pretense inherent to this music," Armbrust says. "We want the experience to feel like introducing a friend to a new favorite band, turning up the volume on the stereo, and shouting, 'This is my jam!'"
On Fri 10/12 the group will play as part of a daylong concert during the free Logan Launch Festival, which inaugurates the U. of C.'s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts; its program includes pieces by Haydn and Wolf as well as George Crumb's thrilling Black Angels.