Spektral Quartet to disband after current season

Fri Nov 12, 2021 at 10:00 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The Spektral Quartet announced Friday that they will break up at the end of the 2021-22 music season. Photo: Dan Kullman

The Spektral Quartet, one of Chicago’s finest and most adventurous chamber ensembles, announced Friday morning that the 2021-22 season will be its last. Their final local program will take place June 11.

“Over time, we’ve come to realize that our paths are leading us in different directions,” stated the group in a collective statement. “As one might imagine, the reasons for this are complex and numerous. We believe that given our circumstances, this is the best decision for the four of us, and therefore also for Spektral. 

“Over the past 11 years, we have endeavored to become more than your friendly neighborhood string quartet. We believe in art-making as a form of building community, and have tried to put this into practice with a seriousness of purpose and a welcoming embrace, and always with a side of whimsy. We recognize just how fortunate we are to have pursued such meaningful projects and contributed to the cultural fabric of our great city of Chicago with the artistic, financial, and moral support of so many of you. And so we wish to express our profound gratitude.”

Renowned for whipcrack technical brilliance, audacious programming and wry humor, the Spektral Quartet peaked on the Chicago concert scene in 2017-18. In addition to an extraordinary cycle of Schoenberg’s complete string quartets, Spektral presented the belated Chicago premiere of Morton Feldman’s six-hour String Quartet No. 2.

Yet despite its popularity and critical accolades, the Spektral Quartet never established a consistent footprint or regular concert series in Chicago over 11 years, preferring to take on offbeat, stand-alone projects that interested them. (The group’s current roster is made up of violinists Clara Lyon and Maeve Feinberg and founding members, violist Doyle Armbrust and cellist Russell Rolen.)

In recent seasons, the quartet’s too cool for school persona seemed to lead them away from classical and 20th century music into alternative formats, experimental music and collaborations with contemporary composers, not all of whose music was worthy of their advocacy. (Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Gloria Coates were notable exceptions.) For a high-profile Chicago group focused on contemporary music, the ensemble was conspicuous by its absence at the second Ear Taxi Festival this fall.

Still, at their finest the Spektral musicians contributed a strong, adventurous and significant presence to the city’s music scene over the past decade. Chicago is not currently abundant with first-class chamber groups and one hopes that a new string quartet will arise from the ashes of the Spektral Quartet.

Spektral Quartet presents a “New Music Help Desk” session with composer David Lang via Zoom on November 19 and a “Once More with Feeling” program focused on Dutilleux’s Ainsi la nuit 8:30 p.m. November 21 at Constellation. spektralquartet.com

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One Response to “Spektral Quartet to disband after current season”

  1. Posted Nov 15, 2021 at 12:21 am by Tom Clowes

    The Spektral Quartet’s collaboration with composer/soloist Nathalie Joachim was awesome.

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