Jupiter String Quartet: ‘Alice in Quantumland’ at Beckman Institute

By: Nancy Ibarra Medrano

The tall ceilings of the Beckman atrium made sure there was room to spare in the lively performance space make-shifted for Jupiter String Quartet. The echos that reached the sixth floor muffled the voices of the introduction, but the touch of the strings still fulfilled the message quite completely.

Jupiter String Quartet from above

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Jupiter String Quartet with Chungliang Al Huang, Tai Ji Master

By: Nancy Ibarra Medrano

From the moment the bows of the violins and cello hit the the first notes of ‘first song title’, I was captivated by the fluidity of the group’s composition.

The performance was enthralling. All the more with accompaniment of Chungliang Al Huang, a playful surprise in the formal atmosphere. The Quartet’s initial demanding synchronicity was nothing compared to the disjointed composition that they were also able to deliver.

37 minutes early.

Applause was cut short as each detailed story played out in front of our eyes. Chungliang first danced in the center of the group. His motion began to set the tempo for the musicians and they also followed suit in how they handled their instruments. The light-hearted nature of his first dance with the quartet set the tone for the duality of the music.

The group took a bow after a particularly intense piece and then the stage cleared. But it was not over. Chungliang was not the only dancer throughout the show. The final dance was a refreshing piece that to me, paralleled the deliberate and fluid nature of the music played throughout the night. The male pair was the most intriguing symbol of the ebb and flow of support the quartet gave each other throughout the night. Each instrument is strong and takes the lead intermittently during a song, as did the tango dancers.

Empty seats, two are full.

My expectations for the performance were happily met. The beautiful architecture of the auditorium set the caliber of the experience even higher as I awaited an enriching exposure to classical music. If I were the director of this show, I would have insisted on a more rehearsals from the dancers. If they would have been able to keep the synchronicity that the musicians did, the entire performance would have had a stronger effect on me and no doubt the rest of the packed audience as well. I would have had more developed choreography as well. I think Chunliang did a great job in directing the dancers the basic motions of his Tai Ji art, but I think more complex displays could have taken the performance to another level. My perception of a classical string ensemble was surely affected by this riveting performance from Champaign locals. The same duality that they had in their performance is one that I appreciate in all areas of art.

The encore.