Spektral Quartet

Winchester Cultural Center, May 19

With a name like Spektral Quartet, the Chicago chamber-music group—comprised of violinists Aurelien Pederzoli and Austin Wulliman, cellist Russell Rolen and violist Doyle Armbrust—had me anticipating a set of dour, minimalist, atonal avant-classical. Instead what I experienced was something altogether bright, ebullient, even—dare I say it?—fun.

Sure, a portion of selections were traditional pieces by composers such as Haydn and Ravel, but they were played with energy and joy. The other portion of the set was decidedly modern, with Christopher Fisher-Lochhead’s ethereal, psychedelic “Dig Absolutely” being a highlight.

Overall, a refreshing atmosphere of “anything goes” hung over the 90-minute event, marking yet another triumph for Winchester. The multimedia aspects (audio and video segments) were underwhelming, mainly because the facility isn’t really set up for anything other than a straight-up, pitch-perfect performance. But the sound of the instruments was, as usual, razor-sharp, and it was satisfying to hear a notorious ensemble—one that has opened for Second City comedians and played in (gasp!) bars—sawing away on highbrow compositions. ★★★☆☆

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Cool Cat in the Hat


Cool Cat in the Hat

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Happy hooting and hollering dies down as the slender, laid-back fellow in ripped jeans, gray shirt, vest and trademark fedora pauses between blues tunes pulled deep from his gut. “Hey, this for me?” he asks, leaning down to retrieve a Rum and Coke at the lip of the stage. “Thank you, brother,” he says to the provider of the libation. “Cheers.”