Music review: Jupiter String Quartet

Now in its 11th season, the Jupiter String Quartet seems to have hit a plateau. I heard them four years ago, and praised their youthful energy and well-prepared performance. Sunday’s performance at the National Academy of Sciences, however, was a disappointment.

No complaints about a well-chosen program of familiar standards; Mozart, Bartok, and Brahms. Nor about the group’s scrupulous care in aligning and matching bow-strokes, tempos, and general interpretation. But they are well past the stage of promising competition-winners, and need to start asserting musical individuality.

Throughout the concert, solos were faceless and under-characterized. First violinist Nelson Lee produces a sound that is alternately wobbly and dry. Without a bloom at the top of the quartet texture, everything else suffers.The other members seem to have a more solid instrumental ability, but none produce music of any particular profile.

The Jupiter boasts good ensemble, moderately good intonation and a kind of dependablesameness. But they have yet to move into the echelon of top quartets despite a fairly busy and successful career so far. Family quartets bring hazardous dynamics into an already hazardous undertaking (there’s a married couple and two siblings in the group), and perhaps I’m imagining some detachment in the group’s body-language that wasn’t there in 2008.But the musical flaws were manifest; the quartet needs some shaking up and each member needs far more meat on his/her musical bones.

The Jupiter String Quartet. (Courtesy of Arts Management Group)

Battey is a freelance writer.

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