Kontras Quartet Brings Together Classical and Folk Traditions Live at the Pregnant Buffalo Lounge

By Stephen Raskauskas |

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Kontras Quartet Plays at the Pregnant Buffalo Lounge in the Chopin Theatre for WFMT’s third Classical Cabaret

Continuing its Cabaret series, WFMT brought together diverse artists in the Pregnant Buffalo Lounge, a subterranean space at the Chopin Theatre, on Monday, April 17, 2017. WFMT announcer Robbie Ellis hosted the performance and broadcast before a live audience that featured two Chicago-based ensembles, the band Big Sadie and the Kontras Quartet.

The string quartet gets its name from the Afrikaans word “kontras,” meaning contrast, since the musicians enjoy playing seemingly contrasting repertoire even within the same program. However, two pieces of music from different times and places can also have as much in common as they have in contrast. During the Classical Cabaret, Kontras shared two pieces that may seem different though actually have a lot in common.

The group played the second movement of Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 9, Op. 34. Dvořák is known for blending many musical styles and for his fascination with folk traditions in Europe as well as the United States. The second movement of this string quartet is inspired by one of most important folk dances of the Czech people: the polka. Hear the movement below.

Kontras also played a new work by living composer Dan Visconti called “Black Bend.” Though there are strikingly modern and fresh sounds in the score, the influence of traditional American folk music is easy to hear. Enjoy this bluesy string quartet performed by Kontras below.