Jupiter String Quartet

“The Jupiter String Quartet, an ensemble of eloquent intensity, has matured into one of the mainstays of the American chamber-music scene.” – The New Yorker

“The Jupiter began the Schubert in rich, relaxed fashion, and I liked the way that, from the outset, the four players kept looking at one another. Now teasing, now petulant, now songful, the performance ranged through all of Schubert’s adolescent moods, ending in a witty romp. The Webern was intriguingly unblended, its anguish palpable, its intensity not easing till the final moments. Both pieces were firmly outlined and sensitively phrased, with the occasional pregnant pause.” – The Boston Globe


"Opening with a dense and driven opening, [Bartok’s Quartet No. 4] sweeps across an arc of two scherzos and a shadowy middle movement, before dancing itself nearly to death in the full-throttle close. The Jupiter gave it a characterful, illuminating and utterly committed account." – The Washington Post


“Like the planet which inspired their name, the Jupiter String Quartet, or the Jupiters as they are often called, inspire us to grow, expand and take risks.” – Smile Politely

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). Now enjoying their 19th year together, this tight-knit ensemble is 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 International Music Festival, Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, Rockport Music Festival, Caramoor International Music Festival, Music at Menlo, the Banff Centre, the Seoul Spring Festival, and many 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 Michi Wiancko, Syd Hodkinson, Hannah Lash, Dan Visconti, Mark Adamo, Pierre Jalbert, and Kati Agócs.

The quartet’s latest album, Metamorphosis (Marquis Classics, 2020), features Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 131 and Ligeti’s Quartet No. 1 “Métamorphoses nocturnes.” Of the album, Cleveland Classical proclaimed "Perhaps what stands out most is the Jupiter Quartet’s precise, unified, and spirited sense of ensemble.” The quartet’s discography also includes numerous recordings on labels including Azica Records and Deutsche Grammophon.

The Jupiter Quartet remains strongly committed to making music during these challenging times. In July 2020, the Jupiter Quartet gave the world premiere of Michi Wiancko's To Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores, which was commissioned for the ensemble and presented via livestream by Bay Chamber Concerts. Other recent and upcoming livestream concerts include performances presented by Bowdoin International Music Festival, Asheville Chamber Music Series, and Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music, as well as virtual residencies with the University of Iowa and Middlebury College.

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.

Concert Programs

The Jupiter String Quartet announces new concert programming for future seasons, offered for 2021-22 and beyond.


The group also remains strongly committed to making music during these challenging times, and can offer high-quality virtual livestreamed or pre-recorded performances with live Q&A sessions.


In addition, the Jupiter is available to perform live concerts for socially distanced audiences within a 3-hour drive of Urbana, IL throughout the 2020-2021 season.


Renewal takes inspiration from a few basic humanitarian ideas that we crave in these trying times: conversation, inclusion, diversity, and hope. The program begins with the final quartet from the Op. 20 set by Haydn. Some of the earliest and most inspired examples of conversational part-writing can be found in Haydn’s quartets. The strikingly soft fugal finale captures this democratic sharing of ideas best of all. Following Haydn, the Jupiter Quartet features fresh and often underrepresented voices. Michi Wiancko’s To Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores is a new commission for the Jupiter Quartet that explores humans’ relationship with the natural world. The second half of the program offers Ben Johnston's tender and unique set of variations on "Amazing Grace" and the intricate and rhythmically charged second quartet of Jamaican-born composer Eleanor Alberga. The program closes on a contemplative note, with the achingly beautiful "Lyric" movement from Black-American composer George Walker's first string quartet.

American Prism - A Community Experience

American Prism is a continuous, evening-length presentation by the Jupiter String Quartet, inspired by America's wonderfully diverse and unique musical traditions as they are brought to life in the string quartets of some of the country’s most beloved composers from the last 125 years. The performance begins at the turn of the twentieth century with Charles Ives, and journeys through contemporary re-imaginings of popular music from the 1910s and 1920s, the pioneering string quartet (1931) of Ruth Crawford Seeger, the gorgeous “Lyric” from George Walker’s first string quartet, and Ben Johnston's beautiful and inventive variations on “Amazing Grace.” Then, the audience experiences the upbeat dances from John Adams, and the tragedy and shared grief embodied by Joan Tower's 9/11 tribute, In Memory, and Barber's Adagio for Strings. Finally, the Jupiter Quartet features voices from the current generation of musicians, including works from Jessie Montgomery, Michi Wiancko, and Judd Greenstein.

20th Anniversary: From Our Beginnings

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their formation, the Jupiter Quartet comes full circle, performing works that they programmed during their first season in 2001-2002 -- Mozart's String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 "Dissonance;" Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73; and Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 51 No. 2.

Last Quartets

The Jupiter Quartet commemorates the last string quartets by three master composers. Mozart’s momentous final string quartet is the third of the “Prussian Quartets,” dedicated to King Frederick William II of Prussia, an amateur cellist. Mendelssohn’s sixth and final string quartet was composed in 1847 and is the composer’s last major work completed before his death that same year. Stricken with grief after the loss of his beloved sister Fanny, Mendelssohn wrote this dramatic and heartrending piece as an homage to her memory. Bela Bartók wrote six celebrated string quartets. The last, composed in 1939, employs a lyrical, melancholy theme which ties all four movements together. The theme is believed to be reflective of the dark events Bartók experienced during this period: the outbreak of WWII and his mother’s terminal illness.


Jupiter String Quartet + Roger Tapping and Natasha Brofsky

Roger Tapping, violist of the Juilliard Quartet, and Natasha Brofsky, cellist of the Peabody Trio, join the Jupiter Quartet for a program spanning the Classical, Romantic, and Modern eras. Mozart’s Fourth String Quintet is colored by a dark and somber tone, which is characteristic of the composer’s other G minor works. Of the work’s particularly melancholic third movement, Tchaikovsky said, "No one has ever known as well how to interpret so exquisitely in music the sense of resigned and inconsolable sorrow." Widely regarded as a chamber music masterpiece, notably by Schumann and Brahms, Schubert completed his "Cello Quintet," his final chamber work, two months before his death. Schubert had offered the work to a publisher, but it was refused and it lay forgotten until it was rediscovered and had its first known public performance in 1850. It was finally published three years later. Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht is a tone poem for a small chamber ensemble, rather than a typical orchestral work. The piece is highly romantic in nature and was written before Schoenberg adopted his signature 12-tone method of composition.

Jupiter String Quartet + Jasper String Quartet

The Jupiter Quartet and the Jasper Quartet collaborate to create an extraordinary musical experience. Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round was composed in response to Astor Piazzolla’s stroke in 1991. The piece is conceived as an idealized bandoneon, and the title serves as a boxing metaphor, prompting Piazzolla’s spirit to fight one last time. Members of the Jupiter and Jasper Quartets commissioned Dan Visconti to compose his 2011 octet, Eternal Breath, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Bill and Margaret Freivogel, the parents of three of the quartets’ musicians. The title refers to the breath of life “passed from one generation to the next.” The fourth violinist trades out their violin for the drone-like tones of the shruti box, signifying the movement of the breath. For the second half of the program, the Jupiter Quartet and the Jasper Quartet perform the monumental Mendelssohn Octet.

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Photo by Sarah Gardner




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