STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Do you have string fever? (Read that again.) The next event in the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series is all about strings. The Jasper String Quartet — violinists J. Freivogel and Sae Chonabayashi, violist Sam Quintal, and cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel — arrives on campus Feb. 27 to play Gyorgy Ligeti’s Quartet No. 1, Beethoven’s Quartet in G Major Opus 18, and Dvorak’s Quartet No. 13 in G Major.
“We are thrilled to have Jasper String Quarter as part of our series,” said coordinator Lisa Kraus. “Their always-compelling performances have an energy that brings the music to life.”
The Philadelphia quartet, founded in 2006 at Oberlin Conservatory, has held artist residencies at Oberlin Conservatory, Rice University, Yale University, and Temple University and has recorded two highly-acclaimed CDs.
Violist Sam Quintal is a founding member of the ensemble. He earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Oberlin Conservatory and a master’s degree in String Quartet from Rice University. He also holds an Artist’s Diploma from Yale School of Music where he studied with the Tokyo String Quartet.
Quintal, of East Falls, is looking forward to playing close to home. The members all live in the area and have friends and family who can attend. “Plus, you don’t have to drive eight hours,” he said.
He doesn’t mind the travel really. Being in the quartet has enabled him and the group to go around the world, which is great. And he just loves playing the music.
“The pieces we get to play are inspiring and wonderful,” he said.
They’ve all been playing music for most of their lives. Quintal started “at the ripe old age of 6,” he said, and the others were young children, too, when they first picked up their instruments.
“We’ve all heard great quartets play this music and dreamed of being able to do that,” he said. “To be able to be at the beginning of living that dream is amazing.”
At the Bryn Mawr concert, he’s looking forward to the Ligeti piece, subtitled Metamorphoses Nocturnes. It’s one of the pieces the group has performed the longest, and is amazing, he said.
“It’s more than 20 minutes all based on five notes,” he said. “He took this little five-note motif through various crazy kinds of imagination and technical mastery.”
Ligeti, who lived in communist Hungary, wrote it while living behind the Iron Curtain.
“It’s kind dark, but it has a lot sardonic humor. One of the jobs he had a younger man was writing dance music for the establishment, so he includes a lot of dances, but they’re twisted on their head. It’s a scary clown kind of feel,” Quintal said. It’s also “incredibly beautiful. It runs the gamut of emotion and character.”
The quartet constructs shows like a good meal, he said. Beethoven, with a light, happy aspect to it, opens the show. Then Ligeti goes dark and displays intricacies and powerful emotions. Then Dvorak closes the show with a party-type piece that’s triumphant, Quintal said.
All of the pieces offer different challenges. The Beethoven is less dense, and therefore requires clarity and precise playing, for instance. Beethoven, revered in the string quartet world, also demands players do the work justice, Quintal said.
“We want to give him our due respect,” he said. “It’s amazing writing.”
No matter what they play, it’s a joy. Quintal loves the intimacy of a small group and the fact that they have artistic freedom to choose what to play. He also loves that there are so many string quartet pieces to choose from. His group members also are friends, so that makes it fun. They all love classical music and are dedicated to the craft and that makes it rewarding.
“It’s so much fun playing with the same three people, having the understanding that comes from that,” he said. “It’s a magical thing.”
IF YOU GO
What: Jasper String Quartet
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 27.
Where: Bryn Mawr College, Thomas Great Hall, 101 North Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr.
Tickets: $20, $18 for seniors, $10 for students, $5 for children younger than 12.
Info.: Call (610) 526-5210 or visit www.brynmawr.edu/arts/series.html