MBC hosts the dynamic Cypress Quartet

By Charles Culbertson
January 29, 2009

You're a lover of classical music, and you're looking for an evening in which you can listen to some of the world's most compelling music played by some of the world's most accomplished performers. What to do?

Well, there's no need to haul your culture-loving self all the way to the nation's capital, or even just over the mountain to the perpetually high-brow festival in Charlottesville. All you have to do on Monday is ease into a chair in Mary Baldwin College's Francis Auditorium, relax and take in a performance by a widely heralded string quartet known for its skill and vitality.

The Cypress String Quartet will headline the Carl Broman Series at MBC with a program calculated to delight a variety of classical music tastes.

Violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Vilner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel will get things off to a rousing start with Haydn's String Quartet in F Major, Op. 77, No. 2. The two Opus 77 string quartets are Haydn's final works in this form and were written in 1799 for the amateur violinist and patron, Prince Franz Joseph Lobkowitz.

The quartet will then treat the evening's concert-goers with Five Pieces for String Quartet by Ervin Schulhoff. Schulhoff (1894-1942), a Communist who died in a Nazi concentration camp, composed the five pieces for string quartet in 1923 in Prague. The pieces are delightful dances — some humorous and some satirical in character — that were received with great critical acclaim when they were premiered in 1924.

Fittingly, the final performance of the evening will consist of the last substantial work completed by Ludwig van Beethoven. His String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Opus 135, is on a smaller scale than his other late quartets and was premiered in March 1828 — one year after his death.

"We're looking forward to a very special evening with the Cypress Quartet," said Robert Allen, associate professor of music at Mary Baldwin College and coordinator for the concert series. "We feel that people who are familiar with the high caliber of the Broman series will experience, once again, the very finest in classical-music artistry, and that newcomers will be hooked — not only on this splendid quartet, but on the series, as well."

The Cypress Quartet has thrilled audiences since 1996 at major concert venues around the world, including the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, Detroit, Columbus and Honolulu chamber music societies, Stanford Lively Arts, Krannert Center and many more. Critics have noted that the quartet's members "combine technical precision with imaginative programming to create truly unforgettable concert experiences."

The Cypress is quartet-in-residence at San Jose State University. The Cypress also serves the greater San Francisco Bay area with an educational mission.

It has been named "Exemplary Arts Educators" by the California Arts Council and has reached an estimated 100,000 students nationwide through educational activities that include American Indians in rural New Mexico and inner-city youth in Los Angeles.