The Jupiter Quartet and Bernadette Harvey met in 2017 at the Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival, where they gave the world premiere of Pierre Jalbert’s Piano Quintet. They reunited to record the recently released Alchemy in honor of the festival’s 25th anniversary and to celebrate the commissioning program of Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, the festival’s supporting organization.
This album features four works commissioned by Arizona Friends of Chamber Music: Pierre Jalbert’s Piano Quintet (2017); Steven Stucky’s Piano Quartet (2005); Carl Vine’s Fantasia for Piano Quintet (2013); and Pierre Jalbert’s Secret Alchemy for violin, viola, cell, and piano (2012). All but Secret Alchemy are world premiere recordings.
Since 1997, AFCM has nurtured new music through commissioning contemporary composers to write new works – 69 to date – many of which are now widely performed and recorded.
Of the collaboration, Jupiter Quartet violist Liz Freivogel says, “Bernadette Harvey is an absolute joy to play with. She brings an extraordinary level of clarity and creativity to every piece she explores, and it is wonderful to collaborate with a musician of such sensitivity and depth.” Harvey echoes, “The Jupiter Quartet is one of the finest quartets I’ve worked with. They have an infectious energy, incredible precision and a strong urge for excellence. They were equally sensitive to my presence in the soundscape, my desires and concerns, as they were to their own, so that the final overall balance and ambience is totally satisfying.”
Pierre Jalbert: Piano Quintet
(Premiered by Jupiter Quartet and Bernadette Harvey on March 19, 2017)
Pierre Jalbert’s Piano Quintet consists of four separate, contrasting movements: “Mannheim Rocket,” a modern take on the eighteenth-century musical technique in which a rising figure speeds up and grows louder; “Kyrie,” a chromatically transformed chant-like motive; a scherzo in which the strings and piano sometimes alternate and imitate each other, reacting to each other’s gestures, and at other times combine and synchronize to produce a more blended sound; “Scherzo” and “Pulse,” made up of perpetually moving 8th notes, but always pushing forward.
Steven Stucky: Piano Quartet
(Premiered by Los Angeles Piano Quartet on March 1, 2005)
As one who loved nothing more than to play the piano quartets of Mozart, Brahms, Fauré, during his youth as a violist, Steven Stucky was inspired by these works his entire career, and later by 20th-century piano quartets of Copland, Palmer, Hartke, and Weir. Stucky’s Piano Quartet is in one continuous movement, but flows in and out of many distinct sections: A short allegro (Risoluto) presents the theme and introduces bell-like sonorities that will recur throughout the piece. In the next, slow section (Lento, molto cantabile), the piano continues to imitate bells. A fast interlude (Allegro) reverses the roles—strings take on the bell sounds and leads quickly to a scherzo (Scherzando e molto leggero) conjuring the composer’s memories of pop music. The trio (Comodo, non affrettato) makes way to a second slow movement, with the piano now cast as soloist, and a brisk coda recalling the clangorous bell sounds of the opening.
Carl Vine: Fantasia for Piano Quintet
(Premiered by Bernadette Harvey and the Shanghai Quartet on March 24, 2013)
Carl Vine writes about his Fantasia, “I call this single-movement piano quintet Fantasia because it doesn’t follow a strict formal structure and contains little structural repetition or recapitulation. The central section is generally slower than the rest and is followed by a presto finale, but otherwise related motifs tend to flow one from the other organically through the course of the work. It is ‘pure’ music that uses no external imagery, allusion, narrative, or poetry.”
Pierre Jalbert: Secret Alchemy for for violin, viola, cello, and piano
(Premiered by Bernadette Harvey, Benny Kim, Helena Baillie, Steve Doane on March 1, 2012)
Composed in four separate and contrasting movements, Jalbert notes, “The first movement begins with this sense of mystery. String harmonics are used to create the rhythmic backdrop for melodic lines played by the cello and later, the viola. The second movement is a relentless scherzo characterized by pizzicato strings, turbulent piano writing, and quickly alternating rhythmic patterns. The third movement is influenced by medieval music with its use of open 5ths, chant-like lines played non-vibrato by the strings, and reverberant piano harmonies, simulating the sound and reverberation in a large cathedral. The fourth movement concludes the work with an energetic music characterized by strings playing fast measured tremolo figures (rapid movement of the bow back and forth on the string). These alternate with the piano’s massive chords and occasional rapid melodic figures, along with muted tones emanating from inside the piano.”
About the Jupiter Quartet
The Jupiter String Quartet is a particularly intimate group, consisting of violinists Nelson Lee and Meg Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel (Meg's older sister), and cellist Daniel McDonough (Meg's husband, Liz's brother-in-law). Now enjoying their 16th year together, this tight-knit ensemble is firmly established as an important voice in the world of chamber music. In addition to their performing career, they have been artists-in-residence at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana since 2012, where they maintain private studios and direct the chamber music program.
Learn more on Jupiter Quartet’s website.
About Bernadette Harvey
Born in Australia, Bernadette Harvey is an acclaimed soloist and chamber musician, currently a senior lecturer of piano and piano pedagogy at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Her career as a pianist began when she won her first medal in the Sydney Eisteddfod at just 2 years of age. She went on to win the ABC Young Performer of the Year (1987) playing in recitals and as soloist with all major Australian Symphony Orchestras. In 2000 she was awarded the Centenary Medal for her contributions to Australian music, and with her brother, Michael Kieran Harvey, she received the Australian Music Centre’s award for the Promotion of Australian Music and the Best Performance of an Australian Composition as a member of the duo-piano Australian Virtuosi (2001).
Learn more on Bernadette Harvey’s website.