Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3


CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Late String Quartets: Volume 2
String Quartet in B-flat, Op.130 with original finale, Große Fuge, Op.133 (1825) [33:12]
Alternative finale (1826) [10:48]
Cypress String Quartet - Cecily Ward, Tom Stone (violins); Ethan Filner (viola); Jennifer Kloetzel (cello)
rec. Skywalker Sound, San Rafael, California; date not stated. Presumed DDD.

Experience Classicsonline

Formed in 1996, the Cypress Quartet have made several recordings on their own label and for Naxos. I had not heard them before, but was sufficiently impressed by their performances on this CD to want to hear them again. I’m not sure that their playing ‘question[s] conventions’ as much as the publicity material claims, but it is certainly both technically accomplished and sympathetic to the varying moods of the music.

The publicity material for the present recording also reminds us how well the first volume of their Beethoven Late Quartets series was received. I don’t think we covered that on Musicweb International, but John Quinn, in 2003, was most appreciative of their recording of Haydn, Ravel and Schulhoff on CSQ3275: “In summary, this is an enjoyable disc by a fresh-sounding young quartet from whom I hope we hear more on disc. Recommended.” (See full review here.)

More recently, the Cypress Quartet have recorded Benjamin Lees’ String Quartets 1, 5 and 6 for Naxos (8.559628 – see review) for Naxos and have contributed to a programme of the chamber music of Jennifer Higdon for the same label (8.559928 – see review).

Reviewing that earlier recording on the Cypress independent label, JQ particularly appreciated the performers’ ebullient high spirits in the finale of Haydn’s Quartet Op.76/5. I was not surprised, therefore, to find their account of the fourth movement of Op.130 especially attractive: it’s marked alla dansa tedesca and, while a German dance may not generally be thought of as the most lively in the world, this movement goes with a real swing. Like most movements in Beethoven’s Late Quartets, however, the tunefulness is only part of the story: there’s a manic side to the music that sets it quite apart from any German Dance that Mozart, Schubert, Lanner or the Strauss Family might ever have written, and the Cypress Quartet captures this side of the music, too. If they very slightly smooth out some of the harsher contours, that’s true, too, of some of the best recordings of this music.

The Op.130/Op.133 coupling is now pretty standard practice and, though it makes for a slightly short recording, it makes sense to have both the original and revised final movements on the same CD. I prefer recordings, however, which perform the first five movements of Op.130 and conclude with the revised 1826 finale as the default version, leaving the 1825 Große Fuge either as a separate work or programmable as the finale. You can, of course, programme the new recording that way, but the disc’s default position restores the work as it was originally composed. It’s a nuisance to have to re-programme a CD and some of the most expensive decks don’t even allow you to do so.

Though the Borodin Quartet (Virgin) adopt the same arrangement, with the Große Fuge followed by the 1826 finale, and though it may be heresy to entertain the thought, I’m not sure that public opinion in 1825/6 wasn’t right: at the first performance the second and fourth movements were encored but the finale was not appreciated. Though Beethoven complained that the public were cattle and asses not to appreciate it, the original fugal finale was (and is) very long and the Fuge stands very well as a work in its own right. Check out the Klemperer Eroica/Große Fuge coupling on EMI to see how well it works alone: though I prefer his mono Eroica to the stereo remake with that coupling, the later version is still one of my Desert Island discs.

The Cypress Quartet timing of 15:15 is relatively fast for my liking – the Quartetto Italiano (Philips), whose version was my introduction to the work, take 18:53. The Cypress tempo works well, though, and is not too far from the consensus: the Amadeus Quartet take 15:25, the Alban Berg Quartet (EMI) 15:31, the Borodin Quartet (Virgin) 15:47. The Lindsays (ASV) and the Emerson Quartet (DG) are faster at 15:02 and 14:41 respectively and the highly respected Takacs Quartet version (Decca) fastest of all at 14:28.

Whatever I think of the arrangement of making the Fuge the default finale, the Cypress Quartet give an excellent performance, so good, in fact, that it seems almost a sacrilege to play track 7 with what the notes call the ‘alternate’ finale immediately afterwards. (When will our transatlantic cousins learn the difference between ‘alternate’, one after the other, and ‘alternative’, one instead of the other: having taught English 101 to undergrads in the US system, I know what a high standard of English is required of them, much higher than in the UK, but this is one distinction that they really ought to get right.) Whichever way you programme the CD, however, the Cypress Quartet’s relatively unhurried version of the revised finale works very well. On paper, they look slow at over a minute longer than the Lindsays and the Takács Quartet, but their performance is never allowed to drag.

The recording is very good, though it may be slightly too forward for some listeners. It reminds me of the presence which CBS afforded to their stereo remake of the Budapest Quartet’s versions of these late quartets, recently reissued on an 8 CD set (Sony 88697776782). The notes, which are contained on three sides of the gatefold cover, are rather short but may well be all that even the beginner needs.

This CD now joins the very best recordings of two works which stand at the spiritual height of the chamber music repertoire, rivalled only by Schubert’s String Quintet in C. If the Cypress String Quartet smoothes over some of the music’s rougher contours slightly, the gain in their expression of the music’s inner strengths amply compensates. Not all UK dealers seem to sell this recording, but if you’re finding it hard to obtain (and live in the UK), also have it as a download – here – at £5.53.

Brian Wilson












































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.