Jupiter String Quartet

 

Nelson Lee, violin
Megan Freivogel, violin
Liz Freivogel, viola
Daniel McDonough, cello

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The Jupiter String Quartet stands at the forefront of the younger generation of classical chamber music ensembles. Formed in 2002, they concertize across the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and South America performing the world’s finest halls, including New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Corcoran Gallery, and Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., Boston’s Jordan Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Esterházy Palace in Austria, and Seoul’s National Arts Center and Sejong Chamber Hall. Recent concerts include performances in Aspen, Buffalo, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Middlebury, Montreal, Napa, New Haven, New Orleans, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, Seoul, and Washington, D.C., to name just a few.

They have been enthusiastically welcomed at major music festivals in North America, including Aspen, Bowdoin, Caramoor, Rockport, Yellow Barn, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Madeline Island, Skaneateles, Honest Brook, the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival, Banff, and Lanaudiere Festival, and abroad at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival in Ireland and the Seoul Spring Festival, among many others.

The Jupiter String Quartet feels a particular connection to the core string quartet repertoire. They have presented the complete Beethoven string quartets at the Aspen Music Festival and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Another complete cycle is in progress at the Lanaudiere Festival in Quebec. Last year, they performed the complete Bartok string quartets at the University of Illinois. Their commitment to new music is demonstrated through a series of commissioned works, including string quartets from Sid Hodkinson, Hannah Lash, and Dan Visconti, as well as Mark Adamo’s Aristotle, with baritone Thomas Hampson, and a forthcoming quintet by Pierre Jalbert. The quartet can be heard on nine recordings on various labels including Azica Records, Marquis Classics, and Deutsche Granmophon. Their most recent CD, Rootsongs, features Dvorak’ “American” String Quartet with Stephen Andrew Taylor’s arrangements of four African-American spirituals, sung by Ollie Watts Davis, and Dan Visconti’s Ramshackle Songs, a work inspired by the music of Tin Pan Alley and commissioned by the ensemble.

The Jupiters have received several musical distinctions: an Avery Fisher Career Grant (2008), Grand Prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition (2004), Grand Prize in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition (2004), membership in Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two (2007-2010), and Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award (2007), which “honors and promotes a rising young string quartet whose artistry demonstrates that it is in the

process of establishing a major career.” They also won the 2005 Young Concert Artists International auditions. The Jupiter String Quartet is a particularly intimate group, consisting of violinists Nelson Lee and Meg Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel – Meg’s sister - and cellist Daniel McDonough – Meg’s husband. Meg and Liz grew up playing string quartets with their two brothers. They grew to love chamber music during coachings with Oliver Edel, a cellist and teacher in the Washington, D.C. area. Nelson also comes from a musical family--both of his parents are pianists, his father also conducts, and his twin sisters, Alicia and Andrea, play clarinet and cello. Although Daniel originally wanted to be a violinist, he ended up on the cello because the organizers of his first strings program declared that he had “better hands for the cello.” He remains skeptical of this comment (he was, after all, only five), and suspects they may just have needed more cellists, but is happy that he ended up where he did. Daniel, Nelson, and Meg met at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and when they were searching for a violist Meg suggested her sister Liz, who was at nearby Oberlin College. The four finished their schooling together at the New England Conservatory of Music in the Professional String Quartet Training Program.

The quartet chose Jupiter as its namesake; it was the most prominent planet in the night sky at the time of its formation. Its astrological symbol resembles the number four and numerous musical references emphasize connotations of happiness and strength associated with the Roman god. The quartet owes much of its musical philosophy to the influences of the original Cleveland Quartet and the current Takacs Quartet, in which all four members form a dynamic and democratic union. The Jupiters spent their formative years under the instruction of these eminent chamber musicians, and continue to adhere to many of their central principles today.

The Jupiter String quartet is in its 5th year as Artists-In-Residence at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where each member maintains a private studio as well as responsibility for running the chamber music program. In addition to its formal concert and teaching schedule, the Jupiter String Quartet places a strong emphasis on developing relationships with future classical music audiences through outreach work in the schools and other educational performances. They believe that chamber music, because of the intensity of its interplay and communication, is one of the most effective ways of spreading an enthusiasm for “classical” music to new audiences. 

 
The Jupiter String Quartet, an ensemble of eloquent intensity, has matured into one of the mainstays of the American chamber-music scene.
- New Yorker - July 3, 2016  

Press Comments

“On September 22, I was at a highly enjoyable concert by the Jupiter Quartet. The program opened with Beethoven's String Quartet, Op. 18, No. 5: an energetic and fresh reading of this work, making the case that the Op. 18 quartets are no mere forerunners to the later quartets, but extraordinary achievements in themselves. The Jupiter zQuartet gave an alluring performance (Dvorak Op. 51) highlighting the gentle and homely joys of its Bohemian ambiance. For the Jupiter players' efforts, the audience stood at the concert's end.”
- News-Gazette - October 9, 2016


Jupiter Quartet Out of This World

“For Sunday’s concert the Jupiter String Quartet brought a program of near-celestial splendor.
I was highly interested to hear one of Beethoven’s Op. 18 quartets. The Jupiter players used a wide dynamic range, very pleasurable especially in the second movement. Their overall approach was
perhaps more Haydnesque. The orchestral sound of ‘La Malinconi’ was quite striking, as was the cello’s articulation in the zippy opening movement. Quite satisfying music-making. The amazing performance of Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 1, Metamorphoses Nocturnes followed! In the eight short movements played continuously, the foursome delineated the music so clearly. Playing with clarity and confidence, they simultaneously showed how the music was strongly grounded in tradition and how the composer’s imagination took him to new places. They also emphasized the music’s humor. The audience not only cheered but broke out in chants of ‘More Ligeti! More Ligeti!’ Maverick’s music director Alexander Platt told it us had been his idea to follow the Ligeti with Schubert’s famous Quartettsatz to emphasize how radical Schubert’s music is. That did happen, and the performance was fine. Yakushev joined the quartet for Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet. Beginning with very big sound, the strings matched the strong fortes from the piano; it continued vivid all the way.”
- Boston Musical Intelligencer- July 4, 2016


Jupiter Quartet achieves greatness

“ The Jupiter String Quartet presented Dutilleux's landmark ‘Ainsi la nuit,’ between Haydn's ‘Sunrise’ quartet and the second of Beethoven's ‘Razumovsky’ quartets. The Jupiters able to demonstrate their best qualities within this structure. Haydn showed them to be an alert and energetic ensemble, with plenty of communication and an individual sonic sheen that was at once light and, when called for, warm and burnished. The famous ‘sunrise’ motif was played with a subtle collective touch, its delicate rays energizing the players as they tore into Haydn's brilliant writing, here at its most innovative and rewarding. That light touch was put to excellent use in the second movement, which was played with beautifully controlled sostenuto; and the minuet was given a healthy measure of humor. In the coda of the finale, the quartet upped the tempo to a risky speed, but brought it off successfully. In ‘Ainsi le nuit’ all credit goes to the Jupiter String Quartet for their brilliant reading of this score, which is packed with allusive events and great performance demands, including some mild extended techniques. The players' ability to listen acutely to each other and their confidence in navigating Dutilleux's conversational meta-language made for a successful reading of the score's oblique narrative. Beethoven's Op. 59 quartets are well known for the Russian folk song that each of employs. The reading was strong and tonally ripe. The galloping finale was rendered with verve and high spirits, and earned some loudly expressed approval from the audience.”
- Cleveland Plain Dealer - December 2, 2015
 

Jupiter String Quartet masters the 'music of the spheres'

“The ensemble was meticulously together in creating the ambiance needed to achieve the effects of the piece. Beethoven’s Op. 59, No. 2 featured punctuated silences, well blended vibrato, a third movement based on a Russian theme, and a virtuosic fourth movement climaxing to a flashy ending. Beethoven perceived the second movement in contemplation of the starry night and the ‘music of the spheres’ and this seemed even more of an appropriate program for a group known as Jupiter. The group received an instantaneous standing ovation and curtain-call for their stellar performance.”
- Lincoln Journal Star - November 15, 2015


Jupiter String Quartet's sound is strong, bold

“Nakamatsu created the first-ever festival residency this year for the Jupiter String Quartet, which performed Tuesday evening. The residency serves to show off Jupiter’s growing status as one of the premiere young quartets in the world. The playing throughout was assured and insightful, befitting an ensemble that has truly come of age. Jupiter formed more than a decade ago, and has risen through the ranks steadily. They now perform everywhere, and call home the University of Illinois, where they have a permanent residency. Their performance of Beethoven’s F major quartet was deliciously athletic, full of dramatic stops and subsequent attacks. It brought the piece alive. Listening carefully to each other, boldly exploring the music-making opportunities, Jupiter played the work like deeply experienced Beethoven interpreters. Spontaneous applause broke out after the third movement.”
- Cape Cod Times - August 19, 2015

 

Jupiter String Quartet masterfully performs Beethoven

“The tight-knit relationship between the four top-notch performers was evident in the consummate coordination of their performances. As an MIT Guest Artist, they are currently delivering a two- year-long cycle six all-Beethoven programs. The Quartet’s third concert was no less breathtaking than the first two. The performers’ energy was constant throughout. The Jupiter String Quartet delivered two of Beethoven’s most challenging quartets — demanding in terms of both individual skill and close ensemble work — with exceptional finesse. As I applauded with the standing audience at the end of the night, I knew I would be back to hear the Jupiter String Quartet in their next all-Beethoven program.”
- The Tech - April 4, 2014

 

Jupiter String Quartet Delivers Exciting Evening

“The concert by the Jupiter String Quartet Saturday taught us is that no matter how many times one has heard an important musical work, there is always more to be learned from a live performance. In the close proximity of the Kalliroscope Gallery, listeners can almost feel part of the performance; the combination of sight and sound becomes an all-encompassing experience, especially with the assured playing of the Jupiter musicians. Beethoven’s E minor Quartet brimmed with energy; the tight discipline among instruments never wavered throughout. In the Schubert, dynamic contrasts were strong and riveting. But none could ignore the Andante’s tonal beauty and surpassing tenderness. This is what audiences come to hear, and no one could express it more keenly than Schubert and the Jupiter Quartet; they were one in talent and intent.”
- Indian Hill Music - March 10, 2014
 

“Oberlin Conservatory’s String Quartet Gala Concert drew an exceptionally large crowd to Warner Concert Hall. The program featured Oberlin’s quartet-in-residence, the excellent Jupiter String Quartet. The Jupiter opened with Visconti’s Ramshackle Songs, written for them in 2009. The Jupiter created a coherent whole out of Visconti’s patchwork, sweetly singing innocent tunes, manically sawing away at barn dances, and blossoming in full, melodious strains; the novel ending was one smile-inducing moment.”
- ClevelandClassical - January 30, 2014

 

“The venerable Hyde Park series opened its 70th season leading off with the Jupiter String Quartet at Mandel Hall. The Jupiter Quartet is an impressive ensemble. The musicians, led by the superb first violinist Nelson Lee, maintained enviable intonation and technical gleam throughout the program. The close cohesion may be aided by the quartet’s familial connections. The Jupiter players proved an assured group technically. Of the three works on the program the Jupiter musicians appeared most in synch with the ripe, richly upholstered music of Brahms;: a fluent and well-played reading that brought out the energy, melancholy and pastoral charm.”
- Chicago Classical Review - October 5, 2013
 

“There’s a certain momentum that builds during summer music festivals. When the Jupiter String Quartet took the stage Sunday at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, just hours after completing an ambitious Saturday evening program, it seemed liked the music had hardly stopped at all.
The programs combined to give a strong sense that Jupiter, always talented, has reached that stage where musical expression, not technical proficiency, has become the focus. Saturday’s recital, quartets by Schubert, Britten and Dvorak, was an intensely alert investigation of the musical possibilities in each work. On Sunday Jupiter offered a Mozart’s Quartet in D major, and collaborated on César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor. The Quartet returned to join Yang for a memorable performance of the Franck’s quintet. Long lines, delineated individually in the strings, then overlapping, with piano undercurrents, build an incredible tension in the opening. The players seemed deeply engaged. The finale opens tremolo in the second violin, a technique that passes through the strings and enhances the chromatic restlessness. That expansive character filled the finale with driving energy right to the climax.”

- Boston Classical Review – June 10, 2013
 

Thomas Hampson, Jupiter quartet make ‘Aristotle’ sing ‘

The brand-new work was the centerpiece of the well-gauged program baritone Thomas Hampson and the Jupiter String Quartet presented in their Celebrity Series concert at Jordan Hall. ‘Aristotle’ aside, it was an all-Austrian evening. The Jupiter began the Schubert in rich, relaxed fashion, and I liked the way that, from the outset, the four players kept looking at one another. Now teasing, now petulant, now songful, the performance ranged through all of Schubert’s adolescent moods, ending in a witty romp. The Webern was intriguingly unblended, its anguish palpable, its intensity not easing till the final moments. Both pieces were firmly outlined and sensitively phrased, with the occasional pregnant pause.Hampson was a one-man Greek chorus in Collins’s poem. Adamo wreathes the string quartet’s chugging lines around the baritone’s recitative, giving him plenty of room. Wolf’s ‘Italian Serenade’ is a combination of serenade and scherzo, and the Jupiter’s traversal brought out both elements: a pleasing contrast in the six songs that followed, with Hampson’s hearty, positive vocal set against the Jupiter’s accompaniment.”
- Boston Globe - April 29, 2013
 

“Thomas Hampson came to Jordan Hall with a string quartet in tow and an East Coast premiere in his luggage. The concert featured Hampson and the Jupiter String Quartet in Aristotle by Mark Adamo. The Jupiter players sounded at home in Webern’s Langsamer Satz. Webern’s rhapsodic piece calls for each instrument to take at least one luscious solo, and to this the Jupiter players added sensitive listening to each other, creating an intertwining blend of audible strands that cast a spell. The rest of the concert was devoted entirely to Hugo Wolf, starting with his Italian Serenade for string quartet. The Jupiter caught the forward momentum of this sunny piece and rendered its lively twists and turns with a clear, layered sound. No arranger was listed for the Wolf songs, but whoever it was created fine, idiomatic compositions for string quartet to preserve that Wolfian equality between voice and instruments.”
- The Classical Review - April 27, 2013

 

Masterful playing of works by the masters

“The uncontested highlight of the evening: the first of Bartók's string quartets. Clearly considered to be the concert's centerpiece, the Jupiter's rendition of Bartók's alternately driving and soulful composition was wholly transporting. These four collaborators achieved both breadth and depth, brilliantly steering the linearity of Bartók's intricate counterpoint, while simultaneously ensuring that the work's rich harmonic syntax was at all times palpable. This performance alone made the evening more than worthwhile. It was a true privilege to experience such fine music and music-making and I hope for the opportunity to hear the Jupiter Quartet in action again soon.”
- Austin Chronicle – July 6, 2012


“The musicians demonstrated that they revel in the conversations, debates and give-and-take that string-quartet repertoire requires. Throughout Tuesday's program, the players switched stylistic gears with refined and dramatic assurance, embracing the Classicism of early Beethoven, spare modernism of Gyorgy Kurtag, vehemence of late Beethoven and Romantic fantasy of Schumann. Kurtag's 12 Microludes pose challenges of volume, nuance and attack that the Jupiter seemed to relish. Every wisp of sound, expansive leap and stabbing gesture emerged as if these players savored the journey. No work in all of Beethoven continues to exert more of a jolt than the Grosse Fuge, Op. 133. The musicians dug into their strings, sending fugue subjects leaping like flames or reaching for the planet after which they take their name. The performance balanced proportion with penetrating feeling, confirming how vibrantly the members of the Jupiter make close contact with one another through transcendent music.”
- Cleveland Plain Dealer - December 8, 2010

 

Jupiter String Quartet delivers polished program

“Every so often a performance leaves us in awe of its loving sophistication, its attention to the finest details of balance and expression. That's how it was with the Jupiter String Quartet's performance of Haydn Op. 20, No. 5. Every phrase was elegantly inflected. The dissonant note in pivotal chords was ever so subtly underlined. The little hesitations and decrescendos before major cadences were managed just so. And yet nothing was overdone or overly self-conscious. The Jupiter is a young group. But every one of its players seems absolutely first-rate.”
- Dallas Morning News – March 15, 2010