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Jupiter String Quartet


Monday, Jul 24, 2023 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm EDT


Studzinski Recital Hall
12 Campus Road S Brunswick, ME 04011

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Jupiter Quartet
Nelson Lee, Meg Freivogel, violin • Liz Freivogel, viola • Daniel McDonough, cello 

Excerpts from “At the Octoroon Balls” — String Quartet No. 1 

BÉLA BARTÓK (1881–1945)
String Quartet No. 6, Sz. 114 

    1. Mesto — Più mooso, pesante — Vivace
    2. Mesto — Marcia
    3. Mesto — Burletta 
    4. Mesto

— Intermission — 

ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat Major, Op. 105 

    1. Adagio ma non troppo — Allegro appassionato
    2. Molto vivace
    3. Lento e molto cantabile 
    4. Allegro non tanto


About the Jupiter Quartet:

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). Now enjoying their 21st year together, this tight-knit ensemble is firmly established as an important voice in the world of chamber music. The New Yorker claims, “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, 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, 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 particular 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 strongly 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. 

The Jupiters place a strong emphasis on developing relationships with future classical music 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 2022-23 season include performances presented by Cleveland Chamber Music Society, Chamber Music Monterey Bay, Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival, Northwestern University’s Winter Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music in Napa Valley, and many others, as well as a residency at Middlebury College with the Jasper Quartet. Jupiter will also perform residency concerts at the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. 

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 miniature Jupiters in the audience or tagging along to rehearsals, along with their grandparent babysitters.





At the Octoroon Balls — String Quartet No. 1 (1995)


Wynton Marsalis is a musician of uncommon versatility, whose career is marked equally by excellence in classical music and in jazz. He received early exposure to both in the New Orleans milieu of his upbringing: the jazz he absorbed from his father, the distinguished pianist Ellis Marsalis; the classical came from school. Before graduating, he appeared twice as a soloist with the New Orleans Philharmonic, performing Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto and Bach’s second Brandenburg Concerto. Marsalis initially pursued a classical career at Juilliard, but was drawn back toward jazz during the summer of 1980, which he spent on tour with Art Blakey and his band. Yet perhaps elements of his classical training are reflected in his traditionalist ideals regarding jazz — most notably his staunch (controversial) opposition to the electronic instruments and rock elements introduced by musicians like Miles Davis during the 1970s and 80s, and his initiatives to promote jazz in traditional concert settings, including as founder and director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. 

While Marsalis made his greatest fame in the world of jazz, he has continued achieving distinctions in classical music. He was the first individual to receive Grammy awards in jazz and classical categories in the same year (1984, for his jazz album Think of One and his recordings of trumpet concertos by Haydn, Hummel, and Leopold Mozart). His compositional output encapsulates these two inheritances, as exemplified in his “Blues Symphony,” with which he sought to prove that the “symphonic orchestra can and will swing.”

“At the Octoroon Balls,” Marsalis’s first string quartet, was commissioned jointly by Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The work draws on the composer’s view of life in New Orleans. As Marsalis put it: “A ball is a ritual and a dance. Everybody was in their finest clothing. At the Octoroon Balls there was an interesting cross-section of life. People from different stratums of society came together in pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment. The music brought people together.” Tonight, the Jupiter String Quartet presents three of seven movements. 



String Quartet No. 6, Sz. 114 (1939)


Béla Bartók’s sixth string quartet, composed in 1939, represents the final installment in one of the great cycles of twentieth-century chamber music. It is also an artifact of a tumultuous time in geopolitics, on the eve of World War II. Bartók was morally troubled, not to mention professionally inconvenienced, by the 1938 annexation of Austria by Hitler’s Germany. His publisher, Universal Editions, had become Nazified, with Bartók required to make bogus declarations about his “racial” identity. Meanwhile, he feared the potential implications for neighboring Hungary: “There is danger of seeing Hungary, too, handed over to this regime of robbery and murder.” Both a fervent patriot who had witnessed his nation’s independence from Austria two decades prior, and a committed internationalist who sat on the artistic committee of the League of Nations, Bartók faced a dilemma: should Hungary be annexed, “it would be my duty to exile myself, if possible,” he reasoned. “But it would cause me immense trouble and moral anguish to make my living in a foreign country.” Bartók was invited to take refuge in Switzerland thanks to Paul Sacher, a conductor and major patron of modernist music, who had recently commissioned Bartók’s Musique for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. Bartók seized the opportunity and settled in Saanen, near Bern, for the summer of 1939, distracting himself by composing a Divertimento for Sacher’s chamber orchestra and beginning his sixth quartet. But Bartók’s progress was brutally interrupted by news of his mother’s death, and he returned to Budapest and completed the quartet under adverse circumstances. It is difficult not to feel Bartók’s anguish, both at the state of Europe and at the loss of his mother, in the insistent indication “Mesto” (Sad) with which he characterizes each movement. 

The sixth quartet was the last work Bartók completed in Europe. In 1940, he and his family immigrated to the United States, where Bartók spent his remaining years in what he described as “comfortable exile.” It is on a similar, gently uplifting note that his final quartet concludes: open fifths in the violins, and an enigmatic sequence of magical harmonies, plucked by the cellist, left to resonate.


String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat Major, Op. 105 (1895)

Like his String Quartet No. 13, Dvořák began his fourteenth and final string quartet while in the United States, where he had been appointed director of the recently established National Conservatory in New York City. Dvořák spent a total of three years in America, where he made his mark artistically and pedagogically. He became enamored of musical cultures he had not experienced in Europe — particularly African American spirituals he heard in New York, as well as the most likely Sioux and Lakota musics he heard during his 1893 sojourn in the midwest.

Despite the success of his tenure and the musical nourishment he received from his sojourn, Dvořák began to feel homesick in New York. (The fact that Jeanette Thurber, the founder and patron of the National Conservatory, had begun to fall behind on his salary payments only exacerbated Dvořák’s unhappiness.) While visiting home over the summer of 1895, Dvořák sent word of his decision to resign. Newly liberated, he returned to full time composition, completing both his thirteenth and fourteenth string quartets by the end of the year (the thirteenth, though completed first, was begun later, which is why it has the subsequent opus number 106). He had only composed 111 bars of his fourteenth quartet before leaving New York; the lion’s share was written in Prague, where the ideas flowed at a feverish pace. 

The quartet brings out the best of Dvořák in terms of chamber music craftsmanship: a dramatic first movement, which introduces motivic ingredients that will develop throughout the entire work; a vigorous scherzo, tapping into his seemingly inexhaustible wellspring of Slavic popular dance figurations; a Lento in which dense, probing textures create the illusion of fifth and sixth voices; and a Finale that ties together threads introduced in the first three movements, channeling them toward a warm and affirming conclusion that might have matched Dvořák’s own feelings upon his homecoming. As Dvořák’s last work of chamber music, the quartet serves as something of a synthesis of his varied and distinguished chamber output, showing an expert attention to formal construction and trademark allusions to Czech dance forms.

Program Notes by Peter Asimov


Jul 24, 2023
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
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Studzinski Recital Hall
12 Campus Road S
Brunswick, ME 04011
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