The string quartet is arguably the most tenacious format in Western classical music, with a viable repertoire that extends from the beginning of the 18th century right up to today. Since forming in 1986 the Leipzig String Quartet has distinguished itself as a young ensemble that commands attention. Unlike the Arditti String Quartet–the greatest interpreter of contemporary string music, which rarely reaches back before the turn of the century–the Leipzig Quartet moves about liberally in the history book, easing its way between classical, romantic, and modern eras. It plays the music of Beethoven and Schubert but also makes space for the works of John Cage. And it excels at middle-European modernism, as evidenced by its current project recording the complete string quartet literature of the second Viennese school (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern) for the MDG label. In the notes to Anton Webern: Complete Works for String Quartet the quartet adds an unusual comment on its musical politics: “It is our hope that this challenging music will cease to be the prerogative of a small enclave of specialists and very soon find the place it rightly deserves in the concert repertoire.” What this translates into is a search for commonalities between old and new, locating a vivaciousness and bounce in contemporary music’s dissonances and angles rather than treating it as antiseptic sound. In its Chicago appearance the Leipzig Quartet will stick to the current century, performing the second quartet of Spanish composer Cristobal Halffter; quartets by Paul Dessau and Hanns Eisler, associates of playwright Bertolt Brecht; young German composer/pianist Steffen Schleiermacher’s “Festgefressen”; and one of Cage’s quartets. Tuesday, 5:30 PM, auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State; 329-0917. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.