The Jasper String Quartet, originally formed at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, has released several albums under a "Kernis Project" rubric, pairing works by Aaron Jay Kernis with established repertory pieces. It would be interesting to learn exactly how the project came about, and to what extent it was undertaken specifically to promote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Kernis. That said, the pairing in this case makes a lot of sense. The four movements of Kernis' String Quartet No. 1 ("Musica Celestis") match those of Schubert's closely enough to think that there must have been conscious or unconscious influence in some cases; hear the two finales, where Kernis' running rhythms in his Quasi una danza finale closely parallel Schubert. Yet the piece is not simply Schubert with a few modern harmonies added, something that would be a pointless exercise. Schubert's quartet is not outwardly "celestial," but the set of variations on the song Death and the Maiden could be heard that way when set against Kernis' somber Adagio, which is not a set of variations but includes aspects of one. On top of this, the Jasper's Schubert String Quartet in D minor, D. 810 ("Death and the Maiden"), a flowing reading with forward motion rather than dramatic gestures, is worth your time whether you like Kernis or not. An intriguing item from the new Sono Luminus label, which has inherited generally high engineering standards from its predecessor, Dorian.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Quartet in D minor, D. 810 "Death and the Maiden"|
|String Quartet No. 1 "Musica Celestis"|