Jupiter String Quartet Announces New Album Metamorphosis
New York, NY – The Jupiter String Quartet announces the June 12, 2020 release of Metamorphosis on Marquis Classics. This album features Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 131 and Ligeti’s Quartet No. 1 “Métamorphoses nocturnes.” The album was produced by Grammy Award winner Judith Sherman; engineered by Frank Horger and Graham Duncan with assistance from Jeanne Velonis; and recorded March 15-17, 2019, in Foellinger Great Hall, Krannert Center, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL.
Now enjoying their 17th year together, 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). To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday year, the quartet performed a series of live concert programs called Beethoven’s Orbit. In each set of repertoire, the Jupiters highlight emotional and structural themes – such as Humor, Fate, Lyricism, and Joy – in Beethoven’s string quartets, exploring how these elements influenced works by fellow and future composers. The recorded album Metamorphosis pairs Beethoven’s monumental Op. 131 with Ligeti’s stunning String Quartet No. 1, “Métamorphoses nocturnes.”
“When quartet musicians picture their ideal chamber music experience, many of them think immediately of Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 131 in C-sharp Minor. There are few other works that require such a prolonged and intense communion with one another,” says Liz Freivogel. “Our quartet naively attempted to learn Op. 131 during our first year together. We spent countless hours trying to puzzle out its difficulties, hoping to navigate our way through its many tricks and traps. We did manage to perform it at the end of that year, but by no means did we grasp the full impact of the piece. Over our ensuing two decades together, we have returned many times to the vivid world of this work, each time bringing new life experiences to bear, and hopefully understanding a few more of the elements that make it so powerful. This recording represents our interpretation as it stands now in middle age (both in quartet years and lived years). No doubt our perspective will morph again by the time we next approach the work.”
As to why they chose the Ligeti for the companion piece, Freivogel explains, “A masterpiece in its own right, it contains a similarly powerful trajectory to that of Op. 131, but condensed into a shorter span. The technical challenges are even more extreme, as the quartet must transform from the most grindingly harsh climaxes to the most transparently soft textures, with little time to prepare in between. Whereas Op. 131 requires extreme patience and a focus on the long view, Ligeti makes more immediate demands, engaging fast-twitch muscles and split-second timing. His descriptions of character are vivid, even asking the players to imitate machines in some of the most terrifying scenes. Nevertheless, both works share a focus on a single, essential motivic kernel that returns in many guises throughout, capturing a sense of the entire life experience. This central idea—which is almost identical in its construction around a four note motive of paired semitones introduced in the opening first violin melody of each—is always present in some form, but must weather the extremes of emotion and fate before reaching a conclusion. In Beethoven’s case, this conclusion is an abrupt, enigmatic pivot to C sharp major, whereas Ligeti brings the journey to a more melancholy and lonely close.”
Metamorphosis | Jupiter Quartet | Marquis Classics | Release Date: June 12, 2020
[1 -7] Ludwig van Beethoven: Quartet in C# minor, Op. 131 (38:07)
8. György Ligeti: String Quartet No. 1 “Métamorphoses nocturnes” 22:59
About the Jupiter Quartet: The Jupiter String Quartet is a tight-knit ensemble, 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 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 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. In addition to their performing career, they have been artists-in-residence at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana since 2012, where they maintain private studios and direct the chamber music program.
Their chamber music honors and awards include the grand prizes in the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition; the Young Concert Artists International auditions in New York City; the Cleveland Quartet Award from Chamber Music America; an Avery Fisher Career Grant; and a grant from the Fromm Foundation. From 2007-2010, they were in residence at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Two.
The Jupiter String Quartet feels a particular connection to the core string quartet repertoire; they have presented the complete Bartok and Beethoven string quartets on numerous occasions. Also strongly committed to new music, they have commissioned works by Syd Hodkinson, Hannah Lash, Dan Visconti, Mark Adamo, Pierre Jalbert, and Kati Agócs.
The quartet’s latest album Alchemy (Marquis Classics, 2019) with Australian pianist Bernadette Harvey features world premiere recordings by Pierre Jalbert, Steven Stucky, and Carl Vine. EarRelevant proclaims, “Performed with great sensitivity and attention to detail, this album marks an important addition to the recorded repertory of new chamber music.” Other recordings on Marquis include Shostakovich & Britten (2007) and Mendelssohn & Beethoven (2009). The quartet’s discography also includes releases on Azica Records and Deutsche Grammophon.
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 at Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music, the Aspen Music Festival, Encore Chamber Festival, Madeline Island Music Festival, and Peabody Conservatory.
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.