Cypress String Quartet closes Sunday Afternoons season with playing of great integrity

By Richard Yates

The Cypress String Quartet performed Sunday Afternoon at Gusman Concert Hall.

The Cypress String Quartet, playing Sunday at Gusman Concert Hall, illustrated that an ensemble can play with virtuosic brilliance without neglecting the integrity of the music.

The unique quality of this performance, the final season event for the Sunday Afternoons of Music series, was that the performers genuinely sought to tell the stories of the music they played, without any fixation on individual agendas.

They demonstrated this throughout the afternoon, capturing the music’s essence with nuanced interactions, careful attention to blend and balance and thoughtful interpretations. The Cypress valued intimacy over aggression, simplicity over virtuosity.

The Cypress Quartet led off with three selections from romantic songs of Dvorak, which he later transcribed for string quartet called Cypresses, from which the group takes their name. Throughout the set, Cecily Ward played the first violin melody with charm and due sentiment, mirroring the vocal quality of the original songs. The musicians brought a hymn-like simplicity to this music that made the unexpected dramatic moments register that much more strongly.

The discords in the introduction of Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet, K. 465, has likely lost some of the novelty heard by audiences of Mozart’s time due to the stylistic breadth of today’s music.

The Cypress players didn’t let the dissonance get in the way of  highlighting the narrative of the music, with a consistent sound of balance and elegance. In the Allegro following the Adagio introduction, this clarity showcased sparkling counterpoint between the voices. Playful exchanges were lobbed between Ward and Ethan Filner, the violist.

The Andante cantabile touched briefly on a quality of greater pathos. Impassioned dissonances between Ward and Stone soon resolved, reflecting the fleeting turbulence. In the Menuetto—Allegro, cellist Jennifer Kloetzel firmly grounded the comic endings of the musical dialogues to make them resonate richly.

In the final movement, Mozart the trickster interrupts the phrase with a mocking descending quip. The players made the jest work effortlessly by maintaining their refined stature. The ensemble’s chosen stylistic sensibility allowed the music to come through with an air of understated wit.

During the initial Allegro of Beethoven’s first “Razumovsky” Quartet, Op. 59, No. 1, the warmth of Kloetzel’s cello melody complemented the lean sound of the upper strings. The Cypress succeeded in capturing the power of Beethoven’s quartet while also depicting a deeper expression.

The Allegretto was articulated with a quiet crispness, the theme artfully passed between the players like the tossing of a ticking clock. The lament-like Adagio portrayed an emotional pairing between the first violin and cello. Ward and Kloetzel’s sensitive characterizations brought passion to the mournful melody.

The concluding Allegro gave the performers a final opportunity to show off their virtuosic skills. The understated performance style of the group worked especially well for the ending of the piece. For as soon as the music died away, a flourish of ravishing consonance stole the day in the unexpectedly sudden coda.

Responding to the audience’s enthusiasm following the Beethoven, the Cypress returned to play called “To The Point,” the third movement from Impressions, written for the quartet in 2003 by the composer Jennifer Higdon. Reminiscent of Bartok’s string quartets in its extended techniques and layered rhythms, the quartet rounded off a very successful performance, playing with technical precision and excitement.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Cypress String Quartet closes Sunday Afternoons season with playing of great integrity”

  1. Posted May 07, 2013 at 12:27 pm by Tom

    This is a fabulous quartet. Their playing is the most thoughtful of any quartet I’ve heard in my 70+ years.

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Mon May 6, 2013
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