The Jupiter String Quartet
photo by Donald Lee
REVIEWS
The Dallas Morning News
Jupiter String Quartet delivers a polished program of Haydn, Golijov and Brahms

“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 Monday night of a Haydn F minor String Quartet (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.

Presented by Dallas Chamber Music, the Jupiter is a young group, formed in 2001. But every one of its players seems absolutely first-rate: violinists Nelson Lee and Meg Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel (they’re sisters) and cellist Daniel McDonough.

Next on the program, at Southern Methodist University’s Caruth Auditorium, was the 1992 Yiddishbbuk by the trendy Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov . Its three movements memorialize, in turn, children who died in the Terezin concentration camp, writer Isaac Bashevis Singer and Leonard Bernstein.

Fifteen minutes long, this is stern stuff: frantic scamblings, slappings and close dissonances; an eerie lullaby on wispy harmonics; desperate quasi-cantorial chants woven through drones. The performance was boldly dramatized… Fortunately, McDonough gave a useful spoken introduction.”

Kansas City Star
“From beginning to end, they played as if they were on fire, with passion and energy galore. But what was most impressive was the vibrant approach they brought to the work. The music was always changing, with shifting dynamics, crisp articulations and exciting phrasing.”
The Washington Post
Jupiter Quartet Renders Russian Works Fit for Gods

“As you’d expect from a group that’s named itself after the king of the gods, the Jupiter String Quartet doesn’t lack for confidence. This gifted and youngish foursome presented an ambitious program Wednesday at the Freer Gallery of Art that showcased two challenging, rarely heard works from Russia — and brought them off superbly.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 7 may be the composer’s most personal work; it’s certainly one of his most moving. Dedicated to his late wife, it’s a soul-tearing howl of love and anguish that, in the right hands, is riveting. The Jupiter players tore into it with real fire, in a deeply empathetic performance.

Shostakovich’s onetime student Sofia Gubaidulina is among the most important and original of living composers, writing with a seriousness of purpose that makes most of her contemporaries look like dabblers. Her Quartet No. 2 is a case in point: Opening simply on a single note passed among the players, it blossoms into an exalting and utterly beautiful work. The Jupiter played it with equal parts daring and understanding.

Those 20th-century works were sandwiched between more traditional pieces. Haydn’s Quartet No. 2 in F, Op. 77, brims with that mix of elegance and bomb-throwing subversion that keeps his music alive. The Jupiter performed it with freewheeling excitement and precise ensemble playing to open the evening and closed with a fine, full-blooded account of Beethoven’s Quartet No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 59.”

Richmond Times Dispatch
“Not just any musicians could pull off such a blazing performance of Bartók. On Saturday night, the members of the Jupiter String Quartet from Boston showed they were up to the task… The Jupiter began their concert beaming with good cheer, setting the tone for Beethoven’s Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6.

The musicians were sensitive to the balance needed for such quickly shifting melodic lines. First violinist Nelson Lee took the lead when his part called for it, but never dominated the sound. Meg Freivogel had a slightly brighter tone that worked well with her position in second violin.

If the Beethoven is a conversation among friends, Bartók’s Quartet No. 4 is the tumult of talk at a family reunion, where people know each other well enough to argue passionately. The instruments often play the same motif only a beat or two apart in sequence, as if finishing each others’ sentences.
The Jupiter’s performance was aggressive but not hostile, recognizing that with this music, Bartók was pushing backward and forward in time.

The second movement shows how Bartók was reaching toward new sounds. The Jupiter produced amazing sonic effects, performing at high speed with muted instruments while impressively navigating the knotty interplay of parts.

Of the five movements, the third movement is most informed by Bartók’s study of folk music. It featured lovely solo work by Daniel McDonough on cello.

As in the Beethoven, the musicians showed excellent control over dramatic changes in dynamics and mood. The Bartók quartet as a whole, however, is incomparably more complex and challenging. As delightful as the Jupiter Quartet was in the Beethoven, they were awe-inspiring in the Bartók.

The program ended with Dvorák’s ‘American’ quartet, which gave violist Liz Freivogel the chance finally to play out. The Jupiter’s clear, tight performance of the fast movements highlighted by contrast their expressive rendition of the slow second movement, in which their phrasings evoked the vocal feel of spirituals.”

The New York Times
“The Jupiter Quartet, for which the piece was written, played it with lush tone, a fine sense of color and both energy and polish.”

Allan Kozinn

The Other Paper, Columbus
Watching resin fly is addictive

“Look out, my low-brow Cro-Magnon friends, string quartet-itis has struck again.

The, uh, band: the Jupiter String Quartet. The place: the intimate Southern Theatre. The material: Haydn, Janacek and Beethoven.

The result: freakin’ mind-blowing, particularly when the musicians tackled the last cat, whoever he was.

What I loved about the Ying Quartet a couple of weeks ago, I loved about the Jupiters. Namely, it was passionate from the first note on. And it wasn’t an ordinary, fake, Dave Matthews-style, emo-weenie passion, but a mind-body-wooden-instrument-and-horse-hair passion the likes of which you don’t see in most groups—except for every string quartet I’ve ever seen. Which is two now.

Opening with Haydn’s Quartet in F Minor, the quartet was conversational, alternately playful and serious, during the Moderato section, which was followed by the Minuet. But it was the Adagio section that breathed and sighed. Yes, the goddam Adagio took it home.

Haydn was pleasant enough, yepper. So pleasant that he left me totally unprepared for the mood swings of Janacek’s Kreutzer Sonata. The cello contributed deeply moving colors while the violins and viola mixed madness and melancholy. Soon the violins got even crazier, creating a tossing, roiling sea of frenetic insanity. So highly dramatic was Janacek’s Adagio, I thought it was the most intense classical music I’d ever heard—and it looked physically exhausting.

Amazingly enough, the Jupiters outdid Janacek with Beethoven’s Quartet in E-flat Major, and I’m telling you, Beethoven is the man! The musicians segued from a delicate, graceful sway to an interlude melancholy enough for a Cure fan. Yet ol’ Ludwig was hardly done.

Beethoven was a man of many moods, many of them more than slightly maniacal. Following his score, the musicians went at it like Teutonics battling the Romans in the wild woods of Bavaria. I mean, I heard the equivalent of Frank Zappa meeting the Allman Brothers doing speed versions of ‘Whippin’ Post,’ after which the free jazz of Rahsaan Roland Kirk was thrown in, before everything did not level out as a variety of melodies floated into each other.

Four stringed instruments did all that, and it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard or seen. You’ve simply got to see a string quartet before you die.”

Palm Beach Daily News
“Quartet playing of abandon and intensity was the fare Sunday afternoon when the Jupiter String Quartet visited The Society of the Four Arts. Formed in 2001, the quartet is something of a family affair: violinist Megan Freivogel and violist Liz Freivogel are sisters, and cellist Daniel McDonough is Megan’s husband. Violinist Nelson Lee rounds out the quartet… The quartet members play with the kind of intimacy you would expect from family members. However, they also play with spirit, intensity and drama.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“String quartets, like fine wines, get better with age; the Jupiters are a
very fine vintage indeed.”
The New York Times
“The Jupiter String Quartet, which won several major chamber music competitions in 2004 as well as the Young Concert Artists auditions this year, began with a taut, warm-hued account of Mendlessohn’s Quartet in A minor (Op. 13). Mendelssohn’s youthful bounce suits this group, and the musicians were at their best in the lithe Intermezzo. They persuasively conveyed the work’s steamier moments, too, and they magnified that side of their playing later in Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet, which closed the concert. What these young players brought to the Schubert was both energetic firmness and fine nuance, qualities that served the opening movement and the extended set of variations in the slow movement beautifully.”
The Boston Globe
“The Jupiter Quartet offer[ed] an unforgettable performance… The group has a pleasing stage presence... the pleasure they take in one another’s musical company was palpable. [About Shostakovich 3rd Quartet] This group can go for broke, and it did in the churning ‘Forces of war’ movement, without losing its tonal center or pushing tone over the line into noise. Another rare quality is the force of the group’s concentration, which carried the five movements in an unbroken arc—an emotional arc. The piece told its story and communicated the composer’s passionate emotions and bleak worldview.”
The Buffalo News
“The Jupiter String Quartet...delivered an arresting, intriguing performance that was well worth the effort”
The Austin American-Stateman
“Holy catgut, Batman! It had pedal-to-the-metal pacing, was absolutely together and was exquisitely in tune. It was also a masterful reading of a masterpiece, with confident tempo modifications and amazingly mature expression.”
Paul Schoenfield
“You’re never going to hear a string quartet any better.”
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