The Washington Post

October 15, 2007

When a concert is interesting, sometimes it's the performance that grabs your attention. But sometimes it's the music that is revealed by the performance.

The Cypress String Quartet, in residence at San Jose State University, opened the 30th season of concerts at Dumbarton Church in Georgetown on Saturday with two 20thcentury American pieces, Griffes's Two Sketches for String Quartet and Barber's String Quartet, that don't get performed all that often.

Textures were beautifully balanced (particularly evident in the glowing Barber secondmovement Molto Adagio, which is high on many people's all-time-favorites list); sonorities were clean and rich. The ensemble, while not rigid, was comfortable.

But it was Dvorak's "American" String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, an old repertoire regular, that made the evening special. Tempos were chosen to bring out a more personal reading than most -- a slow tempo for the first movement's second theme that provided some leisurely space for reflection, and a hair-raising vivace for the finale.

There were opportunities for gorgeous cello and viola solos and, throughout, the music emerged as a conversation rather than a convention. Dvorak has rarely sounded so good.

-- Joan Reinthaler