The Big City: Cypress plays Beethoven at Tenri, NYC

The Big City Blog
November 15, 2010
by George Grella

Fine concert from the Cypress String Quartet last night at Tenri. They represented their two CDs (one more on the way) of the late Beethoven Quartets with performances of the F Major, Op. 135 and B Flat Major, Op. 130, with the Grosse Fugue finale, quartets. They play wonderfully the interpretive choices they make are completely convincing; the relaxed tempo to open Op. 135, the precise and confident playing of the tricky rhythms in the Vivace movement, unsentimental slow movements, a very powerful feeling of crisis and resolution in the finale.

The Op. 130 was exceptional. I love the way they casually yet deliberately work their way through Beethoven's fiendish adjustments of pulse and phrase lengths, their purposeful little pause between phrases is a smart and musically effective way to deliver their, and the composer's, argument. Their overall approach to this monumental piece was enthralling, from the first note they conveyed the feeling that they had all the time in the world to let the music expand and proceed on its own. This really stood out in the incredibly graceful and simple playing of the Cavatina.

George Tsontakis was on hand for a performance of his String Quartet No. 5, In Memoriam: George Rochberg, that the Cypress commissioned. It's richly lyrical, neo-Romantic work, with a nicely judged shape. There are some rapturous moments, and an overall feeling of sympathy, sadness, consolation and fulfillment, the human and humane way to experience the death of someone who matters.