The Jupiter String Quartet, Faculty Artists-in-Residence at the University of Illinois, will perform selections from Beethoven's string quartets and examine how these visionary works stretched and broke traditional boundaries to chart a new course for music.
The JUPITER STRING QUARTET, formed in 2001, is a particularly intimate group, consisting of violinists Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel McDonough, violist Liz Freivogel (older sister of Meg), and cellist Daniel McDonough (husband of Meg, brother-in-law of Liz). Meg and Liz grew up playing string quartets with their two brothers, Ben and J. Rehearsals were often quite raucous, but they grew to love chamber music during weekly coachings with Oliver Edel, a wonderful cellist and teacher who taught generations of students in the Washington, D.C., area. Nelson also comes from a musical family–both of his parents are pianists (his father also conducts) and his twin sisters, Alicia and Andrea, play clarinet and cello. Although Daniel originally wanted to be a violinist, he ended up on the cello because the organizers of his first strings program declared that he had “better hands for the cello.” He remains skeptical of this comment (he was, after all, only five), and suspects they may just have needed more cellists, but is happy that he ended up where he did. Daniel, Nelson, and Meg met at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and when they were searching for a violist Meg suggested they might consider her sister Liz, who was at nearby Oberlin College. The quartet finished up their schooling together at the New England Conservatory of Music, where they were in the Professional String Quartet Training Program. They currently reside in Boston, Massachusetts.
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. There are also musical references (for example, Holst’s The Planets, in which Jupiter is “the bringer of jollity”) that emphasize the connotations of happiness and strength associated with the Roman god Jupiter. The quartet owes much of its musical philosophy to the influences of the original Cleveland Quartet and the current Takacs Quartet, in which all four members form a dynamic and democratic union. The Jupiters spent many of their formative years under the instruction of these eminent chamber musicians, and continue to adhere to many of their central principles today. While enjoying the opportunity to work with living composers, they still feel a strong and fundamental connection to the core string quartet literature, particularly the wonderful set of sixteen quartets by Beethoven and the six quartets of Bela Bartok. In addition to its formal concert schedule, the Jupiter String Quartet places a strong emphasis on developing relationships with future classical music audiences through outreach work in the school systems and other educational performances. They believe that chamber music, because of the intensity of its interplay and communication, is one of the most effective ways of spreading an enthusiasm for “classical” music to new audiences.
The Jupiters have been fortunate to receive several recent chamber music honors, including first prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition, grand prize in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, membership in Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two, and Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award, which “honors and promotes a rising young string quartet whose artistry demonstrates that it is in the process of establishing a major career.” The quartet also won the 2005 Young Concert Artists International auditions and now holds YCA’s Helen F. Whitaker Chamber Music Chair. Most recently, they were honored to receive an Avery Fisher Career Grant.
The quartet concertizes across the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and South America. They have enjoyed playing 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. Other recent concerts include debuts in Albuquerque, Austin, Birmingham, Boulder, Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Cincinnati, Davis, Dayton, Detroit, Edmonton, Jacksonville, Joplin, Palo Alto, Raleigh-Durham, San Antonio, San Diego, Tallahassee, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg, among others. They have also been enthusiastically received at several major music festivals, including the Aspen Music Festival, the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival, the Caramoor International Music Festival, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, the Honest Brook Festival, the Skaneateles Festival, and the Yellow Barn Music Festival.
The quartet is managed by Bill Capone of the Arts Management Group.