What the concert by the Jupiter String Quartet Saturday night (March 8) at Groton’s Kalliroscope Gallery taught us is that no matter how many times one has heard an important musical work, there is always more to be learned from a live performance.
This quartet of well-traveled string players, now in residence at the University of Illinois — Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violins; Liz Freivogel, viola; and Daniel McDonough, cello — brought two stalwarts of the quartet repertory: the second of the Rasoumovsky quartets of Beethoven’s Opus 59, and perhaps the most beloved of all the genre, Schubert’s D minor Quartet, D. 810, subtitled “Death and the Maiden” after the song that provides the second movement’s theme.
These works, especially the Schubert quartet, were certainly familiar to Saturday night’s audience, but their performance by the Jupiter Quartet went beyond the familiar to become truly exciting. In the close proximity of a concert space such as the Kalliroscope Gallery, listeners can almost feel part of the performance; the combination of sight and sound becomes an all-encompassing experience, especially with the assured playing of the Jupiter musicians.
In Beethoven’s E minor Quartet, the Allegro brimmed with energy; the players crooned the Adagio like a love song; the finale’s dotted rhythms snapped with knife-edge precision; the tight discipline among instruments never wavered throughout the rush to the conclusion. In the Schubert quartet, the players used both vigorous and sensitive bowing to express the first movement’s alternating impatience and lyricism as well as the later movements’ rhythmic electricity. Dynamic contrasts were strong and riveting.
But none could ignore the Andante’s tonal beauty and surpassing tenderness throughout its variations, its hushed phrasing and clear harmonies telling of the anxious, then reassuring dialogue between a dying girl and Death itself. This is what audiences come to hear, and no one could express it more keenly than Schubert and the Jupiter Quartet. Picking among the four players would be pointless; they were one in talent and intent — Nelson Lee’s lead, Megan Freivogel’s lyric strength, Liz Freivogel’s agility and tonal warmth and Daniel McDonough’s dynamic authority and rhythmic exactness.
The Kalliroscope Gallery’s ambience and intimacy is sure to draw them back.
McLaren Harris is a former music critic and journalist and a long-time writer in public relations and marketing communications for high-technology companies.