The Jupiter String Quartet is a particularly intimate group, consisting of violinists Nelson Lee and Meg Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel (Meg’s older sister), and cellist Daniel McDonough (Meg’s husband, Liz’s brother-in-law). Founded in 2001, this tight-knit ensemble is firmly established as an important voice in the world of chamber music, and exudes an energy that is at once friendly, knowledgeable, and adventurous. The New Yorker states, “The Jupiter String Quartet, an ensemble of eloquent intensity, has matured into one of the mainstays of the American chamber-music scene.”
The quartet has performed across the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Americas in some of the world’s finest halls, including New York City’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, London’s Wigmore Hall, Boston’s Jordan Hall, Mexico City's Palacio de Bellas Artes, Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center and Library of Congress, Austria’s Esterhazy Palace, and Seoul’s Sejong Chamber Hall. Their major music festival appearances include the Aspen Music Festival and School, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, Rockport Music Festival, the Banff Centre, Virginia Arts Festival, Music at Menlo, Maverick Concerts, Caramoor International Music Festival, Lanaudiere Festival, West Cork (Ireland) Chamber Music Festival, Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival, Skaneateles Festival, Madeline Island Music Festival, Yellow Barn Festival, Encore Chamber Music Festival, the inaugural Chamber Music Athens, and the Seoul Spring Festival, among others.
Their chamber music honors and awards include the grand prizes in the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in 2004. In 2005, they won the Young Concert Artists International auditions in New York City, which quickly led to a busy touring schedule. They received the Cleveland Quartet Award from Chamber Music America in 2007, followed by an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2008. From 2007-2010, they were in residence at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Two and, in 2009, they received a grant from the Fromm Foundation to commission a new quartet from Dan Visconti for a CMSLC performance at Alice Tully Hall. In 2012, the Jupiter Quartet members were appointed as artists-in-residence and faculty at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where they continue to perform regularly in the beautiful Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, maintain private studios, and direct the chamber music program.
The Jupiter String Quartet feels a strong connection to the core string quartet repertoire; they have presented the complete Bartok string quartets at the University of Illinois and the complete cycle of Beethoven string quartets at the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Lanaudiere Festival in Quebec. Also deeply committed to new music, they have commissioned string quartets from Nathan Shields, Stephen Andrew Taylor, Michi Wiancko, Syd Hodkinson, Hannah Lash, Dan Visconti, and Kati Agócs; a quintet with baritone voice by Mark Adamo; and a piano quintet by Pierre Jalbert. They are also part of a commission for chamber choir and string quartet, with music by Su Lian Tan and words by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
The Jupiters place a strong emphasis on developing relationships with future audiences through educational performances in schools and other community centers. They believe that, because of the intensity of its interplay and communication, chamber music is one of the most effective ways of spreading an enthusiasm for “classical” music to new audiences. The quartet has also held numerous masterclasses for young musicians, including most recently at Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music, the Aspen Music Festival, Encore Chamber Festival, Madeline Island Music Festival, and Peabody Conservatory.
The quartet's latest album is a collaboration with the Jasper String Quartet (Marquis Classics, 2021), produced by Grammy-winner Judith Sherman. This collaborative album features the world premiere recording of Dan Visconti’s Eternal Breath, Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat, Op. 20, and Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round. The Arts Fuse acclaimed, “This joint album from the Jupiter String Quartet and Jasper String Quartet is striking for its backstory but really memorable for its smart program and fine execution.” The quartet’s discography also includes numerous recordings on labels including Azica Records and Deutsche Grammophon.
Highlights of the Jupiter Quartet’s 2023-24 season include performances presented by Music at Kohl Mansion, San Antonio Chamber Music Society, Camerata Musica, UNLV Chamber Music Series, and Feldman Chamber Music Society and Chamber Music Society of Williamsburg with pianist Soyeon Kate Lee, as well as residencies at San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the University of Idaho.. As artists-in-residence at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, they also perform a series of concerts at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Early exposure to chamber music brought these four musicians together. Meg and Liz grew up playing string quartets with their two brothers and they came to love chamber music during weekly coachings with cellist Oliver Edel, who taught generations of students in the Washington, D.C. area. Nelson’s parents are pianists (his father also conducts) and his twin sisters, Alicia and Andrea, are both musicians. Although Daniel originally wanted to be a violinist, he chose the cello because the organizers of his first string program declared that he had “better hands for the cello,” and is happy that he ended up where he did.
The quartet chose its name because Jupiter was the most prominent planet in the night sky at the time of its formation and the astrological symbol for Jupiter resembles the number four. They are also proud to list among their accomplishments in recent years the addition of seven quartet children: Pablo, Lillian, Clara, Dominic, Felix, Oliver, and Joelle. You may spot some of these smaller Jupiters in the audience or tagging along to rehearsals.
“The Jupiter String Quartet, an ensemble of eloquent intensity, has matured into one of the mainstays of the American chamber-music scene.”
– The New Yorker
“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”
– Cleveland Plain Dealer
“technical finesse and rare expressive maturity”
– The New Yorker
“Every so often a performance leaves us in awe of its loving sophistication, its attention to the finest details of balance and expression.”
– Dallas Morning News
“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.”
– The Austin Chronicle
“powerful playing of highly dramatic music”
“the Jupiter String Quartet brought a program of near-celestial splendor”
– Boston Musical Intelligencer
“The Jupiter didn't stint on the extremes. The musicians dug into their strings, sending fugue subjects leaping like flames or reaching for the planet after which they take their name.”
– The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The playing throughout was assured and insightful, befitting an ensemble that has truly come of age...”
– Cape Cod Times
“Jupiter, always talented, has reached that stage where musical expression, not technical proficiency, has become the focus ... an intensely alert investigation of the musical possibilities in each work.”
– Boston Classical Review
“Perhaps what stands out most is the Jupiter Quartet’s precise, unified, and spirited sense of ensemble. Their chemistry, like that of a top-notch cast of actors, is one of constant give-and-take of energy.”
– Cleveland Classical
“Like the planet which inspired their name, the Jupiter String Quartet, or the Jupiters as they are often called, inspire us to grow, expand and take risks.”
– Smile Politely
“A satisfying evening of the finest chamber music to be heard anywhere… Their deep musicality was on full display … One could not help but to succumb to this musical seduction, and emerge transformed oneself.”
– Classical Voice North Carolina