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Chicago Q Ensemble at Jennifer Norback Fine Art | Concert preview

The up-and-coming Chicago Q Ensemble offer up their debut album, Amy Wurtz: String Quartets, in a record-release gig.
Photograph: Shawn Kelly Chicago Q Ensemble
By Doyle Armbrust |

Last month, more than 50 local musicians gathered at the MCA with eighth blackbird to tackle Terry Riley’s “In C.” The new-music scene in Chicago is certainly thriving. Included onstage were three members of one of the city’s latest additions, Chicago Q Ensemble.

After three years together, the quartet is poised to release its first full-length, Amy Wurtz: String Quartets. Q violinists Kate Carter and Ellen McSweeney, violist Aimee Biasiello and cellist Sara Sitzer met local composer Amy Wurtz in 2011 while performing at the Rumble Arts Center in Humboldt Park. The five soon realized they were all eager to release an album.

A successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $3,000 for recording fees, and two concerts later, Wurtz and Q Ensemble have String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 pressed to CD.

We’re enticed by the excerpts we’ve heard. Quartet No. 1’s tonal melodies, suffused with phantasmal ponticello harmonics, will draw in newcomers to the genre. After a Bartókian, pizzicato second movement, the piece then returns to the realm of the ethereal in the third movement, featuring an especially opulent and well-executed solo from Sitzer.

To celebrate the record, Q will offer favorite movements from Wurtz’s quartets as well as encores by Kyle Vegter, from their recent collaborative show, Fjords. McSweeney assures us, “The show will be about 40 percent concert, 60 percent party, which is how we like it.”

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