Kontras Quartet will perform Spiritual Fantasy No. 12 for String Quartet by Frederick Tillis at two upcoming concerts, paired with the Dvorak “American” quartet. On May 13, at Imago Creative Studios, 216 Prairie Street, Elgin, IL. Tickets $20 / $10 students; And on May 23, a free concert at 7:30 PM with a pre-concert talk at 6:30 PM at Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 Division St, River Forest, IL.
Admired for their "superlative artistry" (CVNC Arts Journal), the Kontras Quartet has established an international following for their vibrant and nuanced performances. The "superb Chicago-based ensemble" (Gramophone Magazine) has been lauded for their "crisp precision" (Palm Beach Daily News) and "enjoyable musical personality" (Fanfare Magazine). Kontras means contrasts in the Afrikaans language - fitting for a string ensemble whose colorful repertoire spans centuries, genres, and continents.
Frederick Tillis is a black American composer who, like his distinguished predecessors William Grant Still and R. Nathaniel Dett, expresses himself in the forms of the European classical music tradition, at the same time infusing them with the spirit of black vernacular music. Tillis matured as a composer in the 1960s. In 1968, he deliberately adopted a compositional style rooted in the thematic and harmonic materials of the spiritual.
The work Spiritual Fantasy No. 12 (Suite for String Quartet), a quartet of spirituals written in 1995, includes movements inspired by the spritual songs Wade in the Water, Nobody Knows the Trouble I See, and others. The composer has written of this work, “The composition of the Spiritual Fantasy for String Quartet pays tribute to the essence of the musical expressions of pathos and triumph over worldly obstacles encountered by a people who found hope and strength through faith in God.”
The Kontras Quartet's recent and upcoming engagements include international tours of South Africa and Switzerland; broadcasts on classical radio stations nationwide (including Performance Today and a 3-month residency with Chicago's WFMT 98.7 fm); performances at Chicago's Symphony Center and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.; television appearances on NBC and PBS; and sold out concerts in Telluride, Salt Lake City, Raleigh and Arizona. In the spring of 2018, Kontras and saxophone great Branford Marsalis gave the world premiere of Dan Visconti's quintet for string quartet and saxophone, a work that the Quartet co-commissioned with San Diego's Art of Elan.
Kontras enjoys educational work of all kinds, and is in its fourth year as the Quartet in Residence at Western Michigan University. The quartet has also continued its work in the Chicago Public Schools with the support of a grant from the Boeing Company. Outside of the Chicago area, Kontras has made a significant educational impact in North Carolina, bringing over 200 innovative and interactive outreach programs to 40,000 school-age and college students.