July 16–19, 2015
Founded in 2010, the Spektral Quartet is widely regarded as one of Chicago’s most magnetic and forward-thinking chamber ensembles. The group’s inclusive approach to concert format, shifting the role of audience member from spectator to ally, has earned it a loyal following within and beyond the city limits.
Since its inception, the Spektral Quartet has sought out the discourse between the masterworks of the traditional canon and those written this decade, this year, or this week. Rather than simply pairing Brian Ferneyhough with Josef Haydn or Thomas Adès with Béla Bartók, though, the group offers listeners an even more elastic and absorbing experience through its Sampler Pack concert format. For these performances, shorter works and single movements are curated in a setlist containing a menagerie of musical styles, spanning centuries. The unexpected similarities and enticing contrasts between two or three composers becomes a conversation between twelve.
The 2013/14 season found Spektral Quartet venturing into the intersection of music and everyday life with its Mobile Miniatures project. For it, forty composers from across the US including David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly and Shulamit Ran were commissioned to write ringtone-length pieces for the quartet to workshop, record and make available to the public for download to mobile devices. 2013/14 also saw the release of the group’s first two full-length albums: Chambers, spotlighting the work of living, Chicago-based composers, and the South American-themed From This Point Forward with bandoneon/accordion virtuoso Julien Labro.
For its 2014/15 season, AMPLIFY, the quartet unveiled its four largest-scale commissions to date as well as centerpieces from the traditional canon. These adventurous new works push the ensemble into uncharted and thrilling new territory: Artistic, in the case of David Reminick, whose five-movement new work features the musicians singing and playing simultaneously. Collaborative, for Anthony Cheung’s quintet, which partners the group for the first time with International Contemporary Ensemble founder and flutist Claire Chase. Contextual, with Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s mining of the timbres and cadences of comedy stars like Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle, and Tig Notaro. And Experiential, in Alex Temple’s tour through scenes of gender fluidity, featuring indie luminary Julia Holter. With its commitment to an equal footing in the traditional canon and new music, essential entries from eras past balance out the quartet’s season with names such as Beethoven, Ligeti, Haydn, Crumb, Dvořák, and more.
The Spektral Quartet serves as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago and was invited in 2013 to join the Rush Hour Series’ Back-of-the-Yards project, which offers year-long musical education and outreach in one of Chicago’s most under-served neighborhoods.
Photo by Drew Reynolds
Amy Briggs has established herself as a leading interpreter of the music of living composers, while also bringing a fresh perspective to music of the past. Based in Chicago, she plays with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW ensemble, where she has worked with composers such as Pierre Boulez, Augusta Read Thomas, Marc-Anthony Turnage, Oliver Knussen, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Osvaldo Golijov. The Chicago Tribune has called “extraordinary” her “mastery of what lay on the dense, printed page and beyond,” and the Chicago Sun-Times called her a “ferociously talented pianist.” The New York Times described her recent Lincoln Center performance of Luciano Berio’s Sequenza IV as having “a live-wire intensity.”
Amy’s recordings include three critically acclaimed discs of David Rakowski’s Piano Etudes on Bridge Records, two discs of solo piano and chamber music of Augusta Read Thomas for the ART label, music of Conlon Nancarrow, Morton Feldman, Edgar Varese, and Erik Oña for Wergo Records, and a disc of contemporary piano tangos for Parma Records. She has performed across the United States, Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and Asia. Amy Briggs earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance at Northwestern University as a student of Ursula Oppens; she also studied with Mary Sauer. In 2009 she joined the faculty of the University of Chicago as Director of Chamber Music and Artist-in-Residence. Amy is a Steinway Artist.
In 2012 FANFARE Magazine hailed the celebrated Chicago-based Lincoln Trio—made up of Desirée Ruhstrat, violin, David Cunliffe, cello, and Marta Aznavoorian, piano—as "one of the hottest young trios in the business."
Formed in 2003, the Lincoln Trio takes its name from their home, the heartland of the United States, the land of Lincoln. The trio has been praised for its polished presentations of well-known chamber works and its ability to forge new paths with contemporary repertoire. The group's reputation as a first-rate ensemble draws an eclectic audience of sophisticated music lovers, young admirers of contemporary programs, and students discovering chamber music for the first time.
The trio has performed throughout the United States, including appearances at Carnegie's Weil Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Bryant Park Festival, Ravinia Festival, Poisson Rouge, the Indianapolis Symphony Beethoven Chamber Music Series, Lane Concert Series, University of Chicago, Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series, Music in the Loft, and in Springfield, Illinois, where the trio was chosen to celebrate the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial celebration with President Barack Obama.
Internationally the trio has performed in Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and South America.
Champions of new music, the Lincoln Trio has performed numerous compositions written especially for them, including premieres of seven works by members of the Chicago Composers Consortium, Stacy Garrop, Mischa Zupko, Janice Misurell-Mitchell, Ravinia commissioned works for the Lincoln Bicentennial by James Crowley, Eric Sawyer and Lawrence Dillon and an award winning work dedicated to the trio by young ASCAP winner Conrad Tao. 2014 saw the premiere of a Chamber Music America Award commission with composer Laura Elise Schwendinger and a trio by renowned Chicago based composer Stacy Garrop.
Valuing the importance of cultural diversity in music, the trio are strong supporters of the Chinese Fine Arts Society and the Korean Sejong Cultural Society, which has commissioned three works based on Korean themes to be premiered at the University of Chicago and recorded by the Lincoln Trio in 2013.
The Trios extensive discography includes "Notable Women" released on the Cedille Label which featured Grammy and Pulitzer prize winning composer Jennifer Higdon, Joan Tower, Lera Auerbach, Stacy Garrop, Augusta Read Thomas and Laura Schwendinger. The CD has received numerous accolades including NAXOS CD of the Month, Baker and Taylor CD Hotlist, Byzantion Recording of the month, TPR Classical Spotlighted album, WQXR/Q2 Music Album of the week, UK Observer Hidden Gems of 2011 and was listed on Alex Ross of the New Yorker Magazine “Nightafternight playlist for summer's end." Other releases on the Cedille label include "Composers In the Loft", "In Eleanors Words: Music of Stacy Garrop" and "The Billy Collins Suite".
2013 saw the critically acclaimed and GRAMMY nominated release on the NAXOS label of "Annelies" based on the Diary of Anne Frank with Westminster Williamson Voices, Clarinetist Bharat Chandra and soprano Arianna Zukerman. The Midwest premiere was given at the Ravinia Festival in February 2013 with the Chicago Children's Choir and was the featured concluding event of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's 20th Anniversary Tour of the United States in Chicago at the Harris Theatre. In October of 2014 the Trio released their latest CD with which includes the entire works of Joaquin Turina for piano and strings on the Cedille Label.
Winners of the 2008 Master Players International Competition in Venice, Italy and recipients of the 2011 prestigious Young Performers Career Advancement Award, the 2014-15 season will see the trio performing throughout the US and travels to Germany and Colombia, South America where they will record and premiere a trio written for them by renowned Colombian composer Juan Antonio.
Staunch proponents of music education, the Lincoln Trio has had residencies at the Music Institute of Chicago as well as San Francisco State University, University of Wisconsin Madison, and SUNY Fredonia.
Michael Lewanski enjoys a varied career as a champion of contemporary music and standard repertoire. He was appointed Assistant Professor of Instrumental Ensembles at the DePaul University School of Music in 2012 after having served as an adjunct professor since 2007. He is the conductor of the DePaul Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble 20+ (20th and 21st century music), co-conductor of the DePaul Wind Ensemble, and frequent guest conductor of the DePaul Symphony Orchestra. Michael is conductor of the internationally acclaimed Chicago-based Ensemble Dal Niente. He attended the 2012 Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music where Ensemble Dal Niente, under his direction, became the first ensemble to be awarded the prestigious Kranichstein Music Prize.
Michael has collaborated as a guest conductor with chamber ensembles from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the Spektral Quartet, the Fifth House Ensemble, the Rembrandt Chamber Players, the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra of the International Beethoven Festival, and the Anaphora Ensemble. He has led over 100 world premieres. He is the conducting assistant at the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Michael’s recordings include works by Franco Donatoni, Dai Fujikura, Kurt Westerberg, Aaron Einbond, Kyong-Mee Choi, and Janice Misurell-Mitchell. He has acted as producer of recordings by saxophonist Ryan Muncy and Third Coast Percussion.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, he made his conducting debut at age 13 with the Savannah Symphony Orchestra. At 16, he was the youngest student ever accepted into the conducting class of the legendary Ilya Musin at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. Michael attended Yale University, where his studies included conducting with Lawrence Leighton Smith and piano with Sara Laimon. He was music director of the Yale Bach Society Orchestra and conductor of the Yale College Opera Company. His post-Yale education featured conducting study with Cliff Colnot, focusing on rehearsal techniques and preparation of all kinds of ensembles. He has also studied with Lucas Vis.
Michael’s diverse and busy schedule in the 2014-2015 concert season includes concerts with four DePaul School of Music Ensembles; a full season with Ensemble Dal Niente (including a Harvard University residency, an appearance at the Library of Congress, and a Latin American Tour); numerous recording projects; guest conducting Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Detroit Symphony Civic Youth Orchestra; a composition workshop with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra; and work with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.