Jupiter seen and heard in night sky over Columbia

The members of the Jupiter String Quartet surely will be in harmonious alignment with each other when this chamber ensemble performs for Candlelight Concert Society on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m., in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

After playing together for more than a decade, one can expect that sort of professional connection between violinists Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel and cellist Daniel McDonough.

There also are strong personal connections between them. For those keeping biographical score, Liz is Meg's older sister; and Daniel is married to Meg, which makes him Liz's brother-in-law. That being the case, rehearsals and concerts qualify as family gatherings.

And speaking of family, these performers can trace their current employment as classical musicians back to formative childhood experiences. Meg and Liz, for instance, grew up playing with string quartets in the Washington, D.C. area. Both of Nelson's parents are pianists, his father also is a conductor, and his twin sisters are musicians.

This kind of musical closeness doesn't mean that the members of the Jupiter String Quartet aren't receptive to occasionally placing an additional chair on the stage for another performer. These four musicians will be joined by guest violist James Dunham for the upcoming Candlelight program.

Dunham is a founding member of the Sequoia String Quartet, and subsequently became violist of the Cleveland Quartet and Axelrod String Quartet. He is professor of viola and chamber music at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music.

The Candlelight program consists of Haydn's String Quartet in G minor, Op. 74, No. 3, "Reiter Quartett"; Britten's String Quartet No. 1 in D, Op. 25; and Brahms' Viola Quintet in G Major, Op. 111.

These youthful musicians have mastered this mature repertory since forming the Jupiter String Quartet in 2001. As with any new group, they had to come up with a name for their collective identity. In their case, they looked to the heavens for guidance. Jupiter was the most prominent planet in the night sky at the time of the group's formation. And so that became the group's name. It also didn't hurt that the astrological symbol for Jupiter resembles the number four.

Who can say whether their quick success was in the stars, but one can say with certainty that there was talent in their hands.

A measure of that talent can be sensed in the awards and institutional positions they've enjoyed in recent years. The Jupiter String Quartet was selected in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 2005, won the Cleveland Quartet Award from Chamber Music America in 2007, and won an Avery Fisher Career grant in 2008.

Other prizes include first prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition, and grand prize in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

In addition to these various prizes, there have been institutional affiliations. The group is string quartet-in-residence at the University of Illinois, and enjoys visiting faculty residencies at Oberlin Conservatory, Adelphi University, and Spivey Hall in Atlanta.

An earlier residency lasting from 2007 to 2010 at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's Chamber Music Two included a 2009 grant from the Fromm Foundation to commission a new quartet from composer Dan Visconti that was played at Alice Tully Hall in New York.

Although residencies may give the impression of a chamber group settling into a single place, such arrangements are balanced with concerts being given around the United States and abroad. Venues where the Jupiter String Quartet has played include the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York; Wigmore Hall in London; Jordan Hall in Boston; the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City; and Sejong Chamber Hall in Seoul.

And on the festival circuit, they've been to places including the Aspen Music Festival, Caramoor International Music Festival, Music at Menlo, Yellow Barn Festival, and Seoul Spring Festival.

Even with so many performance outlets, it's not likely that they will exhaust the extensive repertory for string quartets. To cite just two composers, they always can dip into the 16 quartets by Beethoven and the six quartets by Bartok.

Besides keeping busy with concerts, the Jupiter String Quartet has recorded works by composers including Barber, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Britten and Gershwin.

Jupiter String Quartet performs Saturday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m., in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Tickets are $32, $30 for seniors, $12 for students 18-24, and free for those 9-17 accompanied by a paying adult. Call 410-997-2324 or go to http://www.candlelightconcerts.org.

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