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