Search MusicWeb Here


selling Internationaly

aSymphonies 1 and 5 £9.00 post free

See also Symphonies 2 and 3

Vision of Judgement £9 post free

Newest Releases


Symphonies 1,2,4 £11.75 post free

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Editor-in-Chief: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

 

  • Menuhin lost tapes
  • Overtures SACD
  • Krommer Flute Quartets
  • Schubert Piano Trios 2CD
  • Menuhin lost tapes


flair, insight, controversy


outstanding singing

 


Sheer bliss


best thing I’ve heard this year

this really exciting release

Vinyl edition

Uplifting music

cracking performance from start to finish

Heartfelt

Sheer magic

Why did I wait so long ?

Delightful


Sibelius Symphonies Maazel
4CDs + Blu-ray audio



Simply unforgettable


Shostakovich Symphony 10 Nelsons

 

 

 

REVIEW
Plain text for smartphones & printers


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb

 


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Altus
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Prima voce
Red Priest
Redcliffe
Retrospective
Saydisc
Sheva
Toccata Classics
Wyastone


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Editor in Chief
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
The American Album
Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
String Quartet No. 12 in F, Op. 96 (American) (1893) [23:21]
Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920)
Two Sketches Based on Indian Themes (1918-9) [9:57]
Kevin PUTS (1972-)
Lento assai (2009) [12:44]*
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11 (1936/43) [17:17]
Cypress String Quartet
rec. Skywalker Sound, California, June 2011, *September 2012
AVIE AV2304 [64:33]

I have no problem with theme programming when it's done well, with an ear to stylistic and expressive variety, as it is here. All these scores deserve repeated airings but to tag Dvorák's score as "The Call" and the other three as "The Response," as Richard Aldag does in his booklet note, is to impose an arbitrary extra-musical continuity. There's nothing to suggest that Barber, Griffes or Puts wrote with Dvorák's quartet in mind - indeed, the Cypress Quartet specifically commissioned Puts's score as a homage to Beethoven and Mendelssohn.
 
Many collectors' interest will undoubtedly centre on the unfamiliar works. That includes Samuel Barber's quartet, which occupies a paradoxical niche, as a forward-looking piece best known for a Romantic movement, the famous Adagio. The Cypress players avoid the temptation to make it "about" that movement, even if some listeners won't. The first movement's melodic lines are gracefully contoured, while the more driving passages go with a nice point. The Adagio, restrained and reverent, moves without pause into the brief Molto allegro third movement, which functions as a coda to it.
 
Charles Tomlinson Griffes is mostly, and unjustly, remembered as a purveyor of pastel Orientalisms in the tone-poems The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan and The White Peacock. Here, dealing with a different ethnic influence, he writes in a more substantial vein, though the high writing at the start is shimmering and diaphanous. Oddly, except for the pentatonic bit with ostinato bass at 3:43 of the Lento e mesto, the music doesn't sound particularly "Indian" - the "Indians" in question being native Americans, not what my generation called "Indians from India".
 
The Lento assai of Kevin Puts is rather interesting. The first section shares the concentration and deep voicings of Beethoven's Op. 135 quartet, though its continuing stepwise motion hints at a subconscious kinship with Barber's Adagio. A more agitated, even anguished episode follows, relaxing into a third section where the interplay of sustained and moving parts fills out the texture, creating the illusion of more than four instruments.

Dvorák's American quartet is a bona fide classic, and the Cypress Quartet approaches it freshly from the start. The first movement doesn't so much start as "materialize", as if the players were picking both the undulating accompaniment and the broad theme out of the air. I was puzzled, however, by their handling of the second theme. The first time around, they slow it way down, and the first violin's rubato is fitful and self-conscious; the repeat keeps the ritard, but the leader fusses less; in the recapitulation, the theme steps smartly in tempo, which works best of all. With so much recorded competition, however, small tonal shortcomings of the Cypress loom larger. The players are sensitive to the mood changes in the Lento, for example, but I could imagine them executed more suavely; the contrasting passage in the Molto vivace scherzo also sounds a bit grainy. The players inject a few ritards into the finale, but its forthright closing section ends things affirmatively.
 
The choice and ordering of works here is appealing, making this a good programme for "listening through", even if you'll want a more authoritative version of the American: from the Juilliard (Sony), say, or the Guarnieri (RCA).

Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is a New York-based conductor, coach, and journalist.

Masterwork Index: Dvorak string quartet 12