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Author: Adam Goldstein

Jupiter Ensemble’s collection of virtuosos sheds new light on classical standards

The Jupiter Ensemble is made up of musical prodigies.

Founded in 2018 by lute player Thomas Dunford, the group boasts no shortage of sheer skill. Each player brings their own extraordinary talent on instruments ranging from violin to mandolin to viola to harpsichord—and that’s no accident. From the very beginning, Dunford made a point of assembling an ensemble of classical music rock stars, artists who could easily be featured as soloists in any showcase worth its salt.

“With Jupiter, I wanted to bring together a group of exceptional musicians from the new generation, encountered while working with a large number of ensembles,” Dunford has said of his approach as creative director of the ensemble. “All of the artists invited to take part in the project are brilliant masters of their instruments … (This) means we can perform the various repertoires in question with passion, power and emotion.”

In this ensemble of musical masters, it also means that the content benefits from the collective expertise and experience of all members. Rather than a clash of egos, the Jupiter Ensemble represents a collaborative meeting of brilliant minds. For example, the group’s approach to live performances and recordings has been overwhelmingly democratic. Players have voted on which compositions and composers they’d like to feature; and original compositions have featured creative input from every member.

The Jupiter Ensemble’s performance on the Artist Series at Macky Auditorium on March 22 is sure to demonstrate the dual dynamic of expertise and cooperation, featuring its fine musicians, including mezzo soprano Lea Desandre. The program will focus entirely on the work of Italian composer and impresario Antonio Vivaldi, with instrumentation and arrangements designed to spotlight his music in unique and authentic ways.

At the same time, the concert will represent the combined input of the entire ensemble. In summoning the spirit of the baroque composer, the Jupiter Ensemble draws on its own interpretations of both popular and lesser-known works. As Dunford told The New York Times earlier this year, the group’s approach to Vivaldi relies on the interpretive skills of a cadre of top-notch young musicians, players who put their “personalities into it.”

Considering the resumes of musicians like Desandre, who has performed in opera houses spanning the globe, those personalities are bound to bring a new dimension to music that stretches back centuries.

The Jupiter Ensemble with Lea Desandre perform at Macky Auditorium on the Artist Series March 22, 2023.