Jasper String Quartet (from left) Sae Chonabayashi, J Freivogel, Sam Quintal and Rachel Henderson Freivogel.

by Carole Verona

The Jasper String Quartet will perform at a free Pastorius Park concert on Wednesday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m.

“Since this year’s series is our 70th anniversary season, we planned a Best of Pastorius, at least from the most recent years,” said Julie Byrne, who chairs the series.

In addition to being chosen as one of the best, the Jasper String Quartet was invited back because they were rained inside last year. When that happens, the performers are usually invited back the following season so that they can experience the atmosphere and wonderful crowd in Pastorius Park, Byrne explained.

“I’m still really looking forward to playing outside,” said Sam Quintal, the quartet’s founding violist. “We’re crossing our fingers that it works out.”

Pastorius Park is located at the corner of Millman Street and Hartwell Lane. If it rains, the show will move to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 8000 Cherokee St. The concerts are supported by the Chestnut Hill Community Association and Chestnut Hill Hospital. The Jasper String Quartet performance is sponsored by One West.

The other members of the award-winning Jasper String Quartet are founding first violinist J Freivogel; founding cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel, his wife; and second violinist Sae Chonabayashi. The quartet has performed throughout the United States and in Canada, England, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway and Panama. “Unbound,” their fourth album was released in March 2017.

The quartet will play selections from Beethoven’s opus 59, no. 2.

“This is an amazing piece full of exciting challenges for us, which we always enjoy,” Quintal said. “It’s one of the Razumovsky quartets. Razumovsky was a Russian count who was living in Vienna and commissioned these quartets for Beethoven. He was an amateur cellist and there are great cello parts in all of these. There’s also a Russian theme in these quartets, especially in the minuet in this one. You can just imagine some Russians doing a great dance to it.

“We are also playing the very brilliant Mendelssohn opus 44, no. 1, which is a firecracker kind of a piece. It’s all about this kinetic energy and the first violin moves all around the high regions of the instrument. It’s also a great quartet piece. There’s a lot of playing together and conversations between the parts.”

The performers will also play a couple of newer pieces.

“Some are undecided, but I’m sure we’re going to play a brand new piece by Joan Tower, which we just performed at her 80th birthday concert,” Quintal said. “She wrote a piece for us called “Wild Summer.” It’s part of a commission that we’re doing of all four seasons by four different composers.  It’s a great piece. It’s very original and a lot of fun. It feels very summery and we hope we can perform it outside,”

For those who have never heard the Jasper String Quartet, Quintal said: “One of the things we take great pride in is playing music in a way that’s accessible even to people who are not connoisseurs of classical music. We take each piece and explain what we’re playing. We enjoy talking about the pieces and explaining what we find to be really compelling about it.

“We try to give the audience a window into our creative process and the excitement we feel when we play this remarkable music. We make it clear through the performance how the music fits together and what’s exciting, funny and surprising about it. We do all of that with the highest musical ideals.

“We want a person who is steeped in the art of string quartets to be able to come and really appreciate what we’re doing. We also want somebody who is new to it to come and have a great time and enjoy themselves.”

Sandwiched between Toubab Krewe, an instrumental band that plays African, Caribbean and American folk music, and Zydeco a-Go Go, a group that blends Cajun with Creole zydeco and classic New Orleans rhythm and blues, how does the Jasper String Quartet see itself bridging these two very diverse styles of music?

Fascinated by the juxtaposition, Quintal alluded to the great diversity in the Pastorius Park series.

“I love the color, texture and sound of different styles of music, but it all tries to get at the same impulse,” he said. “Beethoven and traditional African music express the fundamental urge in all of us to be musical. I don’t know where that comes from. It’s kind of innate. Music expresses something that we can’t express in other ways.

“That’s one of the things I love about this series. A lot of the concerts that we play are chamber music series. So, you have the immense variation between a piano trio and a string quartet.”

More information about The Jasper String Quartet can be found at jasperquartet.com. Stay tuned to the Chestnut Hill Local for previews of each upcoming band or go to chestnuthill.org for more information about the Pastorius Park Summer Concert Series.

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