Smile Politely

The Jupiter Quartet: Krannert’s quartet-in-residence

On November 30th, the Great Hall of the Krannert Center will again be treated to a concert by the University of Illinois’ string quartet-in-residence, The Jupiter Quartet — but this concert will feature a special additions. 

For lovers of the wonderful live sound of the Jupiter Quartet, pianist Michael Brown will join the Jupiter in an all-Schumann program. Mr. Brown will add his musical talents to Robert Schumann’s “Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47” and the “Piano Quintet in E-flat Major,” Op. 44. Schumann’s “Quartet Number 1 in A Minor, Op. 41, No.1″ will round out the program.

For lovers of their recorded music, this concert has an added bonus. They will be autographing CDs in the lobby after the performance, and their last two recordings are something special. “Rootsongs” is a remarkable collection of American themed music from two centuries. Starting with a traditional tribute to his stay in the New World, there is Dvorak’s “Quartet in F Major,” the “American.”

Then the American composers take over.  Stephen Andrew Traylor’s “Spirituals for Soprano and String Quartet,” with University of Illinois faculty member Ollie Watts Davis providing the vocals, gives a contemporary take on vocal traditions. “Ramshackle Songs” by Dan Visconti rounds out this remarkable program.

Windows in Time, with University of Illinois horn Professor Bernard Scully and Boston Symphony violist Rebecca Gitter, is the ultimate testimony to different centuries of musical greatness. This recording features Mozart’s Horn Quintet from 1782 and Gunther Schuller’s 2009 Quintet for Horn and Strings.

Gunther Schuller (1922-2015) is a legend in the development of an American musical tradition. His contributions to classical music and jazz include composition, commentary and historical research, conducting and instrumental performing. He has collected honors from all over the musical world, from the Pulitzer Prize to three Grammy Awards.

The 2009 quintet on the Jupiter’s album was one of Schuller’s last chamber works which premiered with the Miro Quartet the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. A few months later U. of I. Professor Bernhard Scully performed the work with the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota.
In an interview, Professor Scully noted, “He [Schuller] ended up actually conducting the quintet for the performance because of the extraordinary difficulty of the piece and out limited rehearsal time. Overall it was a very successful performance. It was also extraordinary collaboration for all of us and cemented my friendship with Schuller who was very pleased with our work”.

He went on to note that after the concert, Schuller approached him to discuss the possibility of a recording his work with the Mozart quintet. Professor Scully continues, “When I got my position at UIUC, my first goal was to try and make this recording a reality. I got support from the MillerComm guest artist series, and then got awarded two UIUC research grants–one from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and the other from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research”.

In the fall of 2013, the album was ready for recording with our string quartet-in-residence, The Jupiter Quartet, and Gunther Schuller came to campus to produce the album. Professor Scully notes, “Unfortunately, after Schuller came to campus to produce the album, he became progressively more and more ill”.

Gunther Schuller died in June of 2015, and some of the work on the album where his input was valuable was left incomplete. But, Professor Scully notes, “I was able to use his copious notes to inform the the final edits of the recording, and I was able to complete the recording in the spring of 2017”.

The Jupiter’s first violinist, Nelson Lee, had some strong impressions about working with Gunther Schuller:

“He had extremely strong and vivid ideas about the music which really helped us shape our interpretation of the piece. He was also able to hear us play the work multiple times and was in the production booth while we recorded the piece. We were really able to get a comprehensive feel for his musical style and personality”

I then asked Nelson what feelings he had in retrospect about the recording:

“We feel lucky to have had the opportunity to record Schuller’s quintet and to have had the chance to play it for him. We also feel indebted to Bernhard for bringing this project to our attention. It is really a wonderfully complex, fiery, playful, and hauntingly beautiful piece that we really enjoyed playing”

After an evening of 19th century chamber music of Robert Schumann, you will have an opportunity to meet the Jupiter quartet and acquire their recent albums. These recordings feature University of Illinois faculty artists, works from three different centuries and a collaboration with the legendary Gunther Schuller — and you can walk away with those albums autographed .

Coda: Two of Gunther Schuller’s Grammy Awards were for liner notes he wrote for classical albums. He also won a Grammy for conducting and his Pulitzer Prize was for composing.

For further information got to:, or call the Krannert Box Office at: 217-333-6280.

More Articles