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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
String Quartet in D major, Op. 76, No. 5 [19’05"]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

String Quartet in F major (1903) [27’24"]
Ervin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)

Five Pieces for String Quartet (1923) [13’38"]
Cypress String Quartet: (Cecily Ward and Tom Stone (violins); Ethan Filner (viola); Jennifer Kloetzel (violoncello))
Recorded at Skywalker Sound, San Rafael, California in May 2002
CYPRESS STRING QUARTET CSQ3275 [60’15"]


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The Cypress String Quartet, a group of four young players, has been together since 1996 and is based in San Francisco. The programme released here on their eponymous label is somewhat eclectic for a CD where, all too often the intention seems to be to produce programmes that "fit" together round a theme or a link between composers. I doubt there’s any link between the three works assembled here (and thank goodness no attempt is made to manufacture such a link) but the programme works well because the chosen pieces differ without clashing with each other. Undoubtedly, the programme also works because it is well executed. In fact, on the evidence of this CD I’d say that the members of the Cypress enjoy playing together and play for each other.

They give a spirited and engaging account of the Haydn, one of six quartets which he penned between 1796 and 1799. They combine particularly effectively in a fine reading of the solemn Largo which lies at the heart of the work. I was much taken with the ebullient high spirits which they bring to the vivacious finale, a movement which they dispatch with suitable zest and brio.

The Ravel finds them suitably suave and sophisticated. This is a work full of light and shade and the members of the Cypress display a good feel for it. It’s an elusive piece, not easy to bring off, but I felt that both individually and collectively the players were at home with its idiom. As was the case with the Haydn, their handling of the slow movement is especially pleasing, being full of feeling and atmosphere. The last of the four movements is a fiery, virtuoso affair which these players deliver with real drive and bite.

The work by Schulhoff was new to me. It was composed in 1923, the year that he returned to his native Prague from Germany where he had stayed after military service in the Great War. During the five years after the War he had become radicalised, both politically and musically, but this present work, though far from being an undemanding listen, is very attractive. To describe it I can do no better than to turn to the liner notes in which we read that the pieces are "delightful dances, some humorous and some satirical in character. With his vast repertoire of sounds, Schulhoff created miniature pictures of popular dances, including a spoof of a Viennese Waltz, an uneven Arabic dance, a pulsing Czech folk dance, an evocative tango and a rollicking Tarantella." The pieces are interesting and inventive and the players perform them with obvious commitment (they really attack the driving third movement, Alla Czeca (track 11). I enjoyed their performance.

The recorded sound for the whole recital is fully satisfactory though on my equipment it sounded as if just a little more ambience and space round the ensemble would not have come amiss. The accompanying notes are succinct but informative and useful.

In summary, this is an enjoyable disc by a fresh-sounding young quartet from whom I hope we hear more on disc. Recommended.

John Quinn
An enjoyable disc by a fresh-sounding young quartet from whom I hope we hear more on disc. Recommended. … see Full Review



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