When: Sun., Jan. 31, 3 p.m. 2016
Having established themselves as one of Chicago’s best string quartets, the Spektral Quartet convey their trademark humor and savvy on their superb new album Serious Business (Sono Luminus). On it they deftly place Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 33, no. 2 in E-Flat, with its false-ending gag, between the absurdist mayhem contained in the words of poet Russell Edson’s The Ancestral Mousetrap—which also serves as the libretto in the piece of the same name written by Dave Reminick and is sung by the group members—and the evolved transcription of stand-up comedy in Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Hack. Spektral Quartet violinists Austin Wulliman and Clara Lyon, violist Doyle Armbrust, and cellist Russell Rolen are unimpeachably skilled musicians who bring out a sense of daring in composers they commission. The gauntlet of vocal lines and difficult string parts is navigated by the group with witty insouciance, and Hack ditches conventional structure altogether by adding harmony and counterpoint to jagged stand-up cadences from comics like Richard Pryor, Sarah Silverman, and Dave Chappelle. Spektral Quartet play the difficult music with deceptive ease. The jaunty Haydn masterpiece provides a different vibe and historic style—a common thread among Spektral programs—but its presence is ultimately about its humor. The album also includes “Many Many Cadences,” a tightly coiled new work by Sky Macklay featuring manic, slashing lines that could fit alongside the Reminick and Fisher-Lochhhead works. Tonight’s album release concerts will feature movements from The Ancestral Mousetrap, Hack, and the Haydn, as well as Macklay’s work. Stravinsky and Beethoven bookend the performance.