The Chicago String Quartet debuted George Perle’s Brief Encounters last May at a tribute to the 84-year-old DePaul alumnus that was part of the university’s centennial celebration–and usually such a new work wouldn’t see another performance for a long while. But after less than eight months, the CSQ–arguably one of the two best quartets in the midwest, along with the Vermeer–is playing Brief Encounters again. The piece’s melange of rhapsodic outbursts and pensive musings proves that Perle, who in the early 40s was one of the first Americans to embrace the serialism of the Second Viennese School, is still charged with creative energy, enthralled by the infinite possibilities of color and rhythm. The first and last of the quartet’s three parts have five movements each; the middle, four–an archlike form Perle derived from Bartok. And each movement in the second section unfolds more quickly than the preceding one, so while the first runs almost five minutes, the fourth is over in less than 30 seconds. Despite the piece’s play with structure, it doesn’t feel schematic, and while it harks back to the 50s with craggy, abstract atonal passages, it’s also refreshingly expressive. The CSQ, affiliated both with the Chicago Chamber Musicians and with DePaul, was founded in 1995 to raise the profile of the university’s string faculty, and it’s used its position to champion Perle’s chamber works before: it performed his Fifth String Quartet back in 1997. Violinists Joseph Genualdi and Stefan Hersh, violist Rami Solomonow, and cellist Christopher Costanza have jelled as an ensemble from day one, and in Genualdi they have an insightful leader with a dark, honeyed sound. The program also includes Schubert’s Quartettsatz and Smetana’s String Quartet in E Minor, “From My Life,” noteworthy for a sustained high E in the finale that the composer used to imitate the ringing he heard in his ears at the onset of his deafness. Wednesday, 8 PM, Concert Hall, DePaul University, 800 W. Belden; 312-225-5226. A preconcert conversation begins at 7 PM.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Erich Hartmann.