Chicago String Quartet

When DePaul University decided a couple of years ago to bolster the reputation of its music school, one of its first and best moves was to start a resident string quartet. Two distinguished violinists from points west were recruited right away: Joseph Genualdi of the Los Angeles Piano Quartet and the Muir Quartet, who was also an associate concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, and Stefan Hersh, a principal with the Minnesota Orchestra. Though orchestra veterans, both Genualdi and Hersh feel more at home with chamber music. They were joined by violist Rami Solomonow, a DePaul professor well-known on the local music scene for his tenures with the Lyric Opera’s orchestra and the Chicago Ensemble. The cellist in the quartet’s trial season last year has since relocated and been replaced by Christopher Costanza, a young player from the east coast. I’ve heard the quartet in action several times, before and after the personnel change, by itself and with the Chicago Chamber Musicians (the foursome make up its string core). Each time I was impressed with the passion and near unanimity of their playing–unusual for partners who’d not performed together for long. Genualdi in particular can muster a mellifluous tone to rival that of the Budapest Quartet’s first violinist. Chicago may soon have another string quartet to join Northern Illinois University’s celebrated Vermeer on the international circuit. Right now, the Chicago is still trying to figure out its repertoire. This season the programs play it safe. Mozart (String Quartet no. 19, the “Dissonant”), Berg, and Barber are featured in this one. Though written only a quarter century apart, Berg’s string quartet and Barber’s–the only contribution to the genre by each composer–are polar opposites in technique and emotion; and the Chicago’s performances should illustrate this (and not just dwell on the nostalgic lyricism of Barber’s famous adagio). Monday, 8 PM, concert hall, DePaul University, 800 W. Belden; 312-922-1999.