Spectral Quartet – “Serious Business” = Music of SKY MACKLAY; DAVID REMINICK; JOSEF HAYDN; CHRIS FISHER-LOCHEAD – Sono Luminus

by | Feb 18, 2016 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Spectral Quartet – “Serious Business” = Music of SKY MACKLAY; DAVID REMINICK; JOSEF HAYDN; CHRIS FISHER-LOCHEAD – Sono Luminus DSL-92198, 65:26 (CD + audio-only Blu-ray – 5.1 DTS, 2.0 PCM and 9.1 Auro 3D with FLAC and MP3 files) (1/29/16) ****:

Comedy and humor in music. 

Reading the supplementary material that came with this disc I still wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s a tribute to humor, some in the music itself, some based on jokes by well known comedians rendered to music. It sounded strange, and vaguely dislikable, but the truth is this is an interesting ‘concept’ disc that hits its intended mark.

It’s going to be hard to explain this in a review that is only text, but the Spectral Quartet said it well in their notes. Serious Business unpacks the theme of humor in classical music through the lenses of three works composed for Spektral by inventive young composers, and one entry from 1781. The quartet takes listeners on a wild ride through a bevy of colorful musical ideas, full of virtuosity and energy.”

Agreed. It’s a wild ride.

The music includes Sky Macklay’s Many Many Cadences, David Reminick’s The Ancestral Mousetrap, where the quartet sings some humorous texts, Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Hack, a work that takes its cadences from jokes told by humorists like Rodney Dangerfield, Mort Sahl, Robin Williams and many more. The set also offers something for traditionalists, Josef Haydn’s String Quartet in E flat, subtitled by the composer as “The Joke”.

This disc will not be for everybody.. I like the vocal-free tracks more than the ones with voice, but if you’re in the mood for levity, some new music mixed with old, and you’re willing to stretch your musical boundaries, this is an enjoyable disc. The musicianship is very good. The group is currently the quartet in residence at the University of Chicago School of Music. They are well known for their advocacy of contemporary music, which is certainly on display here.

In terms of audio quality it’s what I’ve come to expect from Sono Luminus, meaning extremely high quality with multiple formats, and even FLAC and MP3 files you can download if you have the specified equipment. The strings sound smooth and realistic. Then the vocals come in the pop in and out of all your speakers, including the surrounds if your music system supports multiple channels. The disc also offers discreet 9.1 channel Auro3D, a format that has a little support so far in Europe, but it virtually unknown here in the U.S.

The Haydn is also a beautiful recording, and it doesn’t depend on surround effects for impact.

Serious Business is anything but. It’s a fun listen, superbly recorded, and for those listeners looking for a demo quality disc with some fine but very contemporary music that sometimes is off the rails, this disc is for you.

—Mel Martin

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