Out-of-this-world music

Jupiter String Quartet at Dayton Art Institute

By Joe Aiello
Photo: The Jupiter String Quartet will perform at the Dayton Art Institue on Saturday, May 11

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. Among other things, that means there is no place it can go to hide. Just like chamber musicians; especially those who are members of a string quartet.

If you are one of the 26 or more string players in a symphony orchestra that, at times, can contain more than 80 musicians, should you miss a note or otherwise flub, you have the safety of numbers to ensure your anonymity. However, in a chamber music group that can range in size from only two to nine musicians, there is absolutely no place to hide.

If you don’t possess sufficient talent, that fact can become immediately obvious.

Some symphony musicians also perform in chamber groups; the most common scenario involves principal (first chair) musicians from the same orchestra forming a chamber group with either one another or with principals from other orchestras. The transition to working in a small group in clear view of almost everyone in the audience isn’t all that difficult – principals generally perform more solos with symphony orchestras than other players.

For a musician to start out as, and remain, a member of a small chamber group is fairly rare. In my research on the Jupiter String Quartet, I could find no reference to any of its members ever having played for a symphony orchestra. Yet, in the 12 years the group has been together it has performed for discerning chamber music audiences in such venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Boston’s Jordan Hall, Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes and Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, Corcoran Gallery and Library of Congress.

You could hardly call that hiding.

On Saturday, May 11 at 8 p.m. in the acoustically superb Dayton Art Institute Renaissance Auditorium, the Jupiter String Quartet will perform in the final program of the 2012-2013 Vanguard Concert Series.

The program opens with the Schubert String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major, Op. 125, No. 1, D. 87, known as Haushaltung, or “Household.” Scored as are all the program’s works for two violins, viola and cello, the title is fitting. In a sense, the members of the Jupiter Quartet may not all live in the same household, but they are – for all intents and purposes – a family. The JSQ consists of violinists Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel and cellist Daniel McDonough. Liz is actually Meg’s older sister, and Daniel is Meg’s husband and Liz’s brother-in-law.

Talk about in time.

Published posthumously in 1830, the “Haushaltung String Quartet” was the work of a 16-year-old Franz Schubert, composed sometime in 1813. The approximately 22-minute-long work features a delicate, modulated first movement, a Scherzo reminiscent of a gigue, a melancholy third movement and a fast, driving and joyous fourth.

The Britten String Quartet No. 2 in C, (Op 36 – 1) features a fast but calm first movement and a lively second, then ends with a Chacony (chaccone) that harkens back to the baroque era.

Perhaps it is fitting that the last piece on the concert’s program is Antonin Dvořák’s final piece of chamber music, the String Quartet No. 14 in A flat major, Op. 105.

Dvořák saved his best for last.

After 30 years of writing string quartets – indeed, a lifetime – with the String Quartet No. 14, Dvořák proved what so many have said and many more have long believed: no composer since Dvořák has been better at composing string quartets.

The four movements of the the String Quartet No. 14 are marked as: 1. Adagio ma non troppo (slowly, but not too much) and Allegro appassionato (fast with passion); 2. Molto vivace (very lively); 3. Lento e molto cantabile (slow and in very much a singing style); and 4. Allegro non tanto (slowly, but not so much).

In the first movement, Dvořák’s flair for juxtaposition displays itself in the dark and gloomy, seemingly aimless – particularly on the part of the cello – opening. It then transforms into effervescence, gaiety and liveliness – especially with the violins. The speed and passion are certainly there taking listeners on a multi-directional, highly dramatic journey.

The composition’s second movement features use of time shifting, that is, the replacement of two groups of three beats by three groups of two beats. This underscores music reminiscent of a traditional Bohemian furiant dance, a rapid and fiery dance in 2/4 and 3/4 time with accents that shift frequently.

The third movement begins as an unpretentious, appealing song; then Dvořák embellishes the melody with dissolving countermelodies and scale-modifying trimmings, entirely changing its character.

A dark cello line opens the final movement followed by portentous, rapid and repeating tones that break through into a lilting, unconfined and relentless figure that sometimes resembles a rondo and drives toward an upward spiraling and marvelous finalé to not only the concert, but also to the Vanguard Series’ fifty-first year.

Talk about ending on a soul-stirring note.

The Dayton Art Institute Vanguard Concert series presents the Jupiter String Quartet on Saturday, May 11 in the NCR Renaissance Auditorium, 456 Belmonte Park North. The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the Wright State University Center Box Office, Hauer Music Company and McCutcheon Music Store, or by phone at 937.436.0244 and online at daytonartinstitute.org. Tickets may also be purchased at the museum the night of the concert. Single tickets are $20 adults and $15 students. For more information, visit jupiterquartet.com. 


Reach DCP freelance writer Joe Aiello at JoeAiello@DaytonCityPaper.com

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A member of the Writers Guild of America, native Daytonian Joe Aiello is the author of numerous screenplays, non-fiction books, novels, TV sitcom pilots, news features, magazine articles, and documentaries. He fills his spare time coaching College, A, AA amateur and semi-pro baseball teams; answering trivia quizzes; and denigrating himself attempting to play golf. Reach Joe at JoeAiello@daytoncitypaper.com.

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