"Another recording of Beethoven String Quartets seems almost unnecessary, but this one by the San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet doesn't belong on the slush pile. Presenting two late works, the Cypress players converse with such rare sincerity as to make long-familiar music sound utterly fresh. Throw in their technical aplomb and rich, cohesive tone, in which every voice is significant, and you've got a pair of definitive statements. Happily, more are coming; This is merely volume one. Grade: A" - Cleveland Plain Dealer (www.cleveland.com)
"I can state, unequivocally, that I owe the Cypress Quartet (estab. 1996) a debt from this recording of Beethoven’s Op. 131, their having reminded me of its radical and mercurial character, how extraordinarily audacious and wild it must have appeared to Beethoven’s contemporaries. From the opening fugue--that eternal inspirator of all of Bartok--the Cypress’ approach: spare vibrato; thin, lean attacks from their Bergonzi, Stradivari, and Amati instruments, especially from the tonic; their plastic yet sudden shifts in rhythm and dynamics; the intensity of their pizzicati and rasping arco riffs; all suggest a “revisionist” Beethoven from a modern perspective that still shares much with the groundbreaking path instituted by the Busch Quartet three generations ago. Is not “sudden” one of the many indictments against Macbeth’s reign? The fact that each of the seven movements segues into the next only exaggerates the strict-yet-free character of the composer‘s craft, the often unnerving balance of musical stricture and rhapsodic imagination. The poignant delicacy of the B Minor Allegro moderato, moves with a sense of awed fixation into the grand Andante in A Major, certainly among the most simultaneously cerebral and spiritual creations in art. The last movements strike me with vitriolic accuracy, almost numbing figures in esoteric potent geometry. Didn’t Schubert lament upon hearing this piece, “After such music, what is left for the rest of us to write?”
The F Major Quartet becomes doubly ingenuous after the emotional and stringent aesthetics of the C-sharp Minor, its “naïve,” laconic classicism either a refreshment or an ironic rebuke. Mark Willisher’s close miking of the instruments places us at the center of the philosophical controversy, “Must it be?” Ethan Filner’s viola strikes us in the first movement, beckoning to responses from Cecily Ward, violin and cello Jennifer Kloetzel. We can hear the plangent, rocking sequences that will provide much of the Lento assai’s main theme. The inevitable Beethoven obsessions come forth in the Vivace, whose obstinate and furious whirling eddies convey a raucous, almost uncouth power. The great attentions, cantate e tranquillo, to the slow movement urge its unearthly anguish upon our reluctant acquiescence: “It must be.” The Cypress appears to revel in the singular disposition of Beethoven’s harmonies, the psychic mid-wifery, as each progression yields to the inevitable revelation of melody that ushers forth from the violin part over a throbbing or groaning bass. Finally, the hard-won but buoyant resolution, Beethoven’s last thoughts in the medium which had always acknowledged his mastery of musical, psychological, and spiritual crises, distinctions without a difference." - Audiophile Audition (www.audaud.com)
the Cypress String Quartet is:
Cecily Ward, violin
Tom Stone, violin
Ethan Filner, viola
Jennifer Kloetzel, cello
Widely celebrated for the power of its performances and its passionate dedication to the genre, the Cypress String Quartet combines technical precision with imaginative programming to create unforgettable concert experiences. Cecily Ward, Tom Stone, Ethan Filner and Jennifer Kloetzel have shown an unfailing dedication to exploring the masterworks of the time-honored, classic chamber music repertoire with its unique and refreshingly open sound.
While individually acclaimed musicians in their own right with training from prestigious institutions including The Juilliard School, Interlochen Arts Academy, Cleveland Institute of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Royal College of Music, the Cypress String Quartet has honed its ensemble skills with over 13 years experience performing around the world.
On top of a busy schedule of over 90 concerts each year at venues across America and internationally, including the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, Stanford Lively Arts, Krannert Center and Ravinia Festival, the Cypress String Quartet is a vibrant member of the San Francisco arts community and is dedicated to reflecting and enriching the city’s cultural landscape.
The Cypress String Quartet is excited to release the first volume of its collection of Beethoven’s Late Quartets over three years. The highly anticipated first volume featuring the String Quartets in C-sharp minor, Opus 131 and in F Major, Opus 135 will be publicly launched in San Francisco in August, 2009.
Through its ‘Call & Response’ commissioning and outreach program, the Cypress String Quartet has created a dialogue between the old masters and living composers, performing known and loved repertoire in a fresh context and introducing ground-breaking new works to the chamber music genre. Over just a decade, the Cypress String Quartet has commissioned and premiered more than 25 new works, four of which are now included on Chamber Music America’s list of “101 Great American Ensemble Works”
The Cypress String Quartet represents the voice of the new generation of American culture. As comfortable playing Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in recital halls as it is being the foundation of multi-media collaborations, the Quartet brings passion, inspiration and enjoyment to every audience.
The members of the Cypress Quartet play on exceptional instruments, including violins by Antonio Stradivarius (1681) and Carlos Bergonzi (1733), a viola by Vittorio Bellarosa (1947) and a cello by Hieronymus Amati II (1701). The Cypress Quartet takes its name from the set of twelve love songs for string quartet, "The Cypresses", by Antonin Dvorak.