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Jupiter and Jasper Quartets Release New Collaborative Album - Mendelssohn, Visconti, and Golijov

The Jupiter and Jasper String Quartets announce the February 5, 2021 release of a collaborative album on Marquis Classics, produced by Grammy-winner Judith Sherman. This new release features the world premiere recording of Dan Visconti’s Eternal Breath (2011); Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat, Op. 20 (1825); and Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round (1996). Visconti’s Eternal Breath was commissioned by family of members of the Jasper and Jupiter Quartets, and targets the album’s underlying theme of friendship, family, and joy. The Jupiter and Jasper quartets celebrate decades of deep connections that go beyond simply enjoying playing music together.

Jupiter violist Liz Freivogel explains, “There is a special kind of communion when two quartets meet, and this recording is the product of a particularly profound relationship. The Jasper and Jupiter quartets are brought together by many dimensions of connection. There are siblings—J Freivogel from the Jaspers is the younger brother of Jupiter members Meg and Liz Freivogel; spouses— Rachel Henderson Freivogel and J are married in the Jaspers, and Daniel McDonough and Meg are married in the Jupiters; and longtime friends—Nelson Lee and Karen Kim were apartment mates while they were college students in Boston, and both they and Sam Quintal are enduring friends and colleagues of all of the quartets’ members, with relationships stretching back two decades. All this is to say that making this recording was a true pleasure—a chance to renew all of these bonds and enjoy exploring the music together.”

Dan Visconti’s hauntingly beautiful Eternal Breath was commissioned by Bill and Margie Freivogel (parents of J, Meg, Liz, and older brother Ben) on the occasion of their 40th wedding anniversary, in 2011. The Freivogels envisioned a work that would involve their four children (who all grew up playing string quartets together), but also wanted to include their children’s spouses, three of whom are professional musicians.

Visconti describes the work’s concept: “Eternal Breath is based on a simple ‘breathing’ phrase, which becomes longer and more elaborate as the expanding melody is passed around the entire ensemble. The idea of the breath of life passed from one generation to the next, as well as the expansion of the family through marriage inspired the development of the initial, chant-like material. Accompanied by a drone which marks the rise and fall of each musical "breath", the melody moves through a reverberant and glowing atmosphere until everyone joins in playing the same overlapping phrase, inflected with their own individuality.”

Osvaldo Golijov’s striking Last Round (1996) is a tribute to the great Argentinian composer and musician, Astor Piazzolla. The quartets are joined here by bassist Michael Cameron. The nonet is in two parts, the first filled with a frenetic and crackling energy. Last Round is a reference to a short story about boxing by Julio Cortázar, and represents Golijov’s vision of Piazzolla’s spirit getting to “fight one more time.” By contrast, he second section is full of reflection and slow, suspended lyricism. Piazzolla often played the bandoneón, an instrument similar to the accordion and one considered essential to the tango. Golijov uses this as an underlying structural theme, as he says: “The piece is conceived as an idealized bandoneón. The first movement represents the act of a violent compression of the instrument and the second a final, seemingly endless opening sigh.”

Felix Mendelssohn’s String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 (1826) is famously joyful. Mendelssohn was raised in a family that valued music and the arts, and both he and his talented sister Fanny were brought up in an atmosphere that encouraged their musical pursuits from an early age. This makes it no less stunning that he was able to write such an intricate masterpiece at the age of sixteen. Instead of treating the two quartets as separate entities, Mendelssohn weaves all kinds of deft and subtle conversations among the eight musicians, in every possible combination.

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