Formed 16 years ago while studying at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and playing music together professionally for a decade, the four members of Philadelphia-based Jasper String Quartet are making their way to the Central Coast for their first performance in Santa Barbara. On November 21, violinists J Freivogel and Karen Kim, violist Sam Quintal, and cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel will play a three-piece set of old and contemporary classical music at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Mary Craig Auditorium. In an interview with the News-Press, Mr. Quintal spoke about what local audiences can anticipate for his ensemble’s upcoming gig, as well as the quartet’s plans for the near future.
The quartet will kick off its November 21 concert with a rendition of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Op. 18 No. 4,” one of the composer’s earlier pieces that Mr. Quintal described as an early indicator of the musical direction Mr. Beethoven would take later in his career.
“Even though it’s early Beethoven, you can see all of the seeds of where he went,” he said.
For the performance’s one and only contemporary piece, the quartet selected Vivian Fung’s “Quartet No. 3” from 2013. Built around a bass line of a scale’s four descending notes similar to that composer Johan Sebastian Bach frequently used, Ms. Fung’s piece begins with an “otherworldly texture” and no real discernable melody. However, Mr. Quintal admires how pieces of melody gradually emerge under the sonic texture as the song progresses, revealing a “crystallization of all these musical ideas beneath these sounds.”
The violist spoke particularly highly of the performance’s final piece, “Quartet in D minor, D. 810” by Franz Schubert, also known by the title “Death and the Maiden.” Commenting on how the composer conveys the eponymous “death” with contrasting sounds that shift between doom-laden and sweet, he praised Mr. Schubert’s piece as written “with an incredible sense of the dramatic.”
“It’s hard for me to think of a more dramatic piece than that one,” he stated.
Since its formative days at Oberlin Conservatory, Jasper String Quartet has spent much of its time in the academy. After college, Mr. Quintal and his band mates went through residency programs at Rice University and Yale University. Currently, the ensemble is the professional quartet in residence Temple University’s Center for Gifted Young Musicians, where the group teaches advanced high school musicians on Saturdays. For Mr. Quintal, teaching students is a rewarding experience that sustains his musical curiosity.
“[It] keeps you interested in diving into the music,” he said.
Following Jasper String Quartet’s performance at the museum, the quartet will round out this year by recording an octet album in collaboration wit the Jupiter String Quartet, which includes violinist Meg Freivogel and violist Liz Freivogel, Mr. Freivogel’s sisters. Come 2020, Jasper String Quartet will play several concerts in its home base of Philadelphia, including a two-concert series by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society consisting entirely of works written by female composers.
“It’s a side of classical music that’s been underrepresented for its entire history, so we’re trying to balance the scales a little bit,” Mr. Quintal said.
Tickets for Jasper String Quartet’s November 21 performance at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art cost $20 for museum members and $25 for non-members. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the museum’s Mary Craig Auditorium.