On Sunday afternoon the Lincoln Friends of Chamber Music presented the Jupiter String Quartet at the Johnny Carson Theatre. The group is the quartet-in-residence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and consists of violinists Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel and cellist Daniel McDonough.
The performance began with the delicate opening to Haydn’s Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 76, No. 4, known as “Sunrise.” The viola part was especially notable for clarity projected above the ensemble in soloist passages, but the group as a whole blended exceptionally well. The second movement contained gorgeous hymn-like balance with a powerfully silent ending, whereas the last movement contained great dialogue among the parts.
In stark contrast to the opening, “Ainsi la nuit” (“Thus the night”) by Henri Dutilleux was much more modernistic. The work is exceedingly technical and uses a variety of extended techniques like harmonics, glissandi, and ricochet effects with the use of the bow. Despite the technical demands of the piece, the ensemble was meticulously together in creating the ambiance needed to achieve the nocturnal effects of the piece.
The second half of Jupiter's performance consisted of Beethoven’s Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2. The work featured punctuated silences, well blended vibrato, a third movement based on a Russian theme, and a virtuosic fourth movement climaxing to a flashy ending. It is noted that Beethoven perceived the second movement in contemplation of the starry night and the “music of the spheres.” This created a great sense of cohesion to the overall program with the “sunrise” portrayal in Haydn, the “night” atmosphere in the Dutilleux, and the “music of the spheres” in the Beethoven quartet. This seemed even more of an appropriate program for a group known as Jupiter. The group received an instantaneous standing ovation and curtain-call for their stellar performance.