Review: Spektral Quartet mixes music with art and audience participation


When an usher arms you five postcards and a pen along with your method, you know that this will not be your common string quartet concert.

The 5-by-7-inch postcards, each individual created by a visual artist, had been portion of the Spektral Quartet’s a lot awaited San Diego debut courtesy of the La Jolla Songs Society.

The string quartet experienced previously been booked by ArtPower for an April 2020 program devoted to feminine composers these types of as Fanny Mendelssohn, Ruth Crawford Seeger and UCSD alumna Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Regretably, a thirty day period before their scheduled visual appeal, the COVID pandemic canceled all indoor concerts.

Quick ahead to Thursday evening in Baker-Baum Live performance Corridor. Five is effective on the software were matched with a postcard just about every. We ended up to create on the postcards, influenced by the songs.

1st off was an arrangement of a four-voice motet, “O Magnum Mysterium,” by Tomás Luis de Victoria, just one of the best masters of 16th-century common-follow counterpoint. It was paired with a black-and-white photograph by Eliaichi Kimaro of a dandelion seedhead called “Everything Is Related.” We have been asked to publish to a person to whom we felt linked.

Violinists Clara Lyon and Theo Espy, violist Doyle Armbrust, and cellist Russell Rolen performed Victoria with no any vibrato, sounding like a viol consort with excellent intonation. There’s a putting instant towards the stop in which the meter shifts from 4 beats to a few. In the motet, this marks the end of the classic text, concluding with a chain of “alleluias.” That context was dropped in the instrumental arrangement.

Excerpts from conventional repertory — the very first movement of Debussy’s String Quartet and the Andante from Schubert’s “Rosamunde” String Quartet — were dealt with to lustrous actively playing by Spektral. Lyon traded chairs with Espy, and her violin soared previously mentioned the team with a sensuous cantabile in these numbers. It was quartet enjoying of the best order, a tantalizing glimpse of what these four could do in a regular live performance.

The intermissionless live performance proceeded with spoken introductions and display screen projections, the place the postcard artwork was elucidated. Debussy was accompanied by Kimaro’s painting “Custodian Of The Environment In,” an abstract function wherever orange patches drifted throughout mild and dim blues we ended up questioned to consider about an individual courageous.

For the chronically ill Schubert, they prompt that we produce some thing encouraging to somebody who could use a type phrase. The postcard was a surreal juxtaposition of a wood shoe, a mountain, glass spheres, and snow (“Campanil Basso” by Antonia Contro).

Katherine Youthful remixed “Hiding Your Existing From You” by the idiosyncratic Arthur Russell. Small melodic fragments had been recurring with minimal or no advancement, juxtaposed with detuned melodies and bow-struck strings.

Tomeka Reid is a vibrant, improvising cellist-composer. Her “Prospective Dwellers,” while nice more than enough, was fairly straight-laced and could have benefited from far more pitfalls or fantastical flights.

I did observe some patrons creating or drawing all through the audio, but most of us simply listened and viewed. We all put tunes on as a track record to other responsibilities, but at a live performance, I give it my whole interest. Nothing I could scribble would make improvements to on the chills I acquire listening to Debussy.

Their performance remaining me wishing that I could have read their 2020 ArtPower program, but alas! Spektral is disbanding and Thursday’s live performance was the final time we could experience them in Southern California. Fortunately their actively playing was graced by the beautiful acoustics of Baker-Baum Live performance Hall.

Hertzog is a freelance writer.


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