Unbound marks the debut of the Jasper String Quartet at the Native DSD Music store. The album features 21st century compositions from Caroline Shaw, Missy Mazzoli, Annie Gosfield, Judd Greenstein, David Lang, Donnacha Dennehy, and Ted Hearne. It is said to “explore the furthest reaches of the string quartet repertoire with new works by 7 of today’s most dynamic composers”.
Maggie Molloy from Second Inversion says “The album unfolds as a survey of today’s spectacularly diverse and dynamic string music landscape, each piece stretching the string quartet tradition in new and inventive ways. The album begins with Caroline Shaw’s tangy and succulent “Valencia.” The Jaspers bring precision and playfulness to Shaw’s billowing harmonics and bold bow strokes, evoking the brilliant colors and juicy texture of the fresh, flavorful fruit.”
“sonically delightful and expressively compelling” —The Strad “powerful” —New York Times “The Jaspers… match their sounds perfectly, as if each swelling chord were coming out of a single, impossibly well-tuned organ, instead of four distinct instruments.” —New Haven Advocate
“As the members of a string quartet, we are incredibly lucky. The four of us have spent the past decade playing together, learning to breathe and move as one. We’re honored to play in the most intimate settings and the top concert halls. Most importantly, the music we play is the best that there is. Seeking out new pieces to contribute to this conversation is as important, if not more so, as rediscovering the sublime human experience of a Beethoven quartet.
The seven pieces on this album represent a collection of treasures we’ve discovered from this century. One of these pieces, Annie Gosfield’s “The Blue Horse Walks on the Horizon” was written expressly for our quartet. The rest we unearthed as we sifted through the vibrant and varied landscape of music being created today.
We sought to find a set of pieces that were both enchanting on their own and together represent a cohesive aesthetic. From the immense technical challenges of Judd Greenstein’s “Four on the Floor”, the meditative contemplation of David Lang’s “almost all the time”, to the raw emotion and vivid imagery of Missy Mazzoli’s “Death Valley Junction”, these pieces represent an incredible diversity of sound and style. Yet they all reside comfortably in this wonderful tradition of string quartets, of which we are lucky enough to be a part.”
—Jasper String Quartet
Total time: 01:08:50
|Original Recording Format|
Horus (recording), Hapi (mastering), Merging Technologies
Legacy Audio Speakers
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia on May 24-27, 2016
|Release Date||June 6, 2019|
The Jasper Quartet select seven pieces written since 2005 for their third Sono Luminus album. Five begin with a pulse that sets the music’s course; two move in irregular fits and starts. And despite lengths varying from four to 18 minutes, each has a personal core.
Annie Gosfield’s The Blue Horse Walks on the Horizon was written for the Jaspers. Inspired by the surreal radio broadcasts and codes used by European resistance groups in the Second World War, Gosfield’s complex 16-minute narrative opens like the Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando in Beethoven’s first ‘Rasumovsky’ Quartet, then moves into territory as wild as a string quartet can get without actually tearing its strings out.
Wonderful moments and dramatic tours de force abound, whether suggestive string glissandos tracing sensuous curves in Caroline Shaw’s Valencia or the luxurious cello solo in Missy Mazzoli’s Death Valley Junction. Judd Greenstein’s finely judged Four on the Floor is consumed in frantic motor energy before breaking out into a superb Bartókian jog-trot and climax. The disjointed 18-minute skein of sound that David Lang’s almost all the time creates is a response to the question ‘can a piece begin as identical microscopic cells that then differentiate into other functions across time?’ Donnacha Dennehy’s Pushpulling, an exercise in increasingly ominous, skittling anxiety, is the only moderately disturbing music on the album. The collection closes with Ted Hearne’s Excerpts from the middle of something, an intoxicating romp that is interrupted throughout like Haydn at the end of his Joke Quartet.
National Sawdust Log
Among the top young string quartets now working the chamber-music circuit worldwide, Philadelphia’s award-winning Jasper String Quartet has made a habit of mixing canonical classics and freshly created fare. For its newest album, Unbound, the group opted try something novel, and to make a statement in the process. Using Judd Greenstein’s Four on the Floor as the centerpiece, the quartet – violinists J Freivogel and Sae Chonabayashi, violist Sam Quintal, and cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel – surrounded that work with six additional pieces, all by living composers: three men and three women.
In addition to the Greenstein piece, Unbound, includes music by Caroline Shaw, Missy Mazzoli, Annie Gosfield, David Lang, Donnacha Dennehy, and Ted Hearne.
Over the course of their decade-long career, the Jasper String Quartet has become pretty familiar with the famous quartets of historic masters like Haydn, Beethoven, and even Bartók—so when it came time to record a new album, they decided to look for new musical inspiration a little closer to home.
Unbound is a collection of 21st century works that burst through the boundaries of traditional Western musical styles and forms. The Jaspers—comprised of violinists J Freivogel and Sae Chonabayashi, violist Sam Quintal, and cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel—explore the furthest reaches of the string quartet repertoire with new works by seven of today’s most dynamic composers.
Featuring compositions by Caroline Shaw, Missy Mazzoli, Annie Gosfield, Judd Greenstein, David Lang, Donnacha Dennehy, and Ted Hearne, the album unfolds as a survey of today’s spectacularly diverse and dynamic string music landscape, each piece stretching the string quartet tradition in new and inventive ways.
The album begins with Caroline Shaw’s tangy and succulent “Valencia,” the video for which we premiered just last week on Second Inversion. The Jaspers bring precision and playfulness to Shaw’s billowing harmonics and bold bow strokes, evoking the brilliant colors and juicy texture of the fresh, flavorful fruit.
Missy Mazzoli’s contribution to the album, by contrast, is a bit more narrative-driven. “Death Valley Junction” is inspired by a small American town of the same name, where a woman named Marta Becket resurrected a crumbling opera house in the late 1960s and went on to perform weekly one-woman shows there for over 40 years. An airy, sparse, desert-inspired soundscape gradually gives way to a wild and exuberant dance, evoking Becket’s colorful imagination and unshakable optimism.
It’s followed by Annie Gosfield’s “The Blue Horse Walks on the Horizon,” a piece she wrote specifically for the Jaspers. Inspired by the surreal radio broadcasts and codes used by European resistance groups during World War II, the piece unfolds through shifting, repetitive figures that evoke the abstract coded messages.
Group dynamics are the key theme behind Judd Greenstein’s contribution to the album. “Four on the Floor” is an energetic, fast-paced work which explores different instrument pairings working with and against one another in constantly changing teams.
Photo by Dario Acosta.
David Lang’s “almost all the time” explores a different type of evolution. The piece begins with a simple cell of a musical idea—what he calls “a little 10 note strand of musical DNA”—but across 18 minutes expands and evolves into a beautiful genetic mutation, each detail carefully crafted under the Jaspers’ fingers.
Donnacha Dennehy’s “Pushpulling” is more elastic in its movements. Frenetic bow strokes speed ever-forward, but are slowly and patiently pulled back to silence each time—pushing and pulling the listener along for the ride.
The album closes with Ted Hearne’s circular “Excerpts from the middle of something,” the first movement of his Law of Mosaics. Unusual in its form, the piece consists of a climactic build-up that, instead of resolving, is simply repeated and revised several times. And yet, each time it is convincing: the Jaspers play each rendition with the explosive energy and enthusiasm of a grand finale.
It’s an exclamation point at the end of the album but also a metaphor, perhaps, for the album’s overarching theme: the string quartet repertoire did not die with Haydn or Beethoven, but is still alive and still evolving to this day.
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