All Classical Portland: Taking the “Middle” road – Beethoven Middle String Quartets

by John Pitman

When I think of Beethoven’s 15 string quartets, which are works that represent the whole of the composer’s adult life, I liken them to taking a long trek up a mountain. If Opus 18 is the trailhead and the first few miles, the “middle period” quartets of Opp. 59, 74 and 95 are when the trail starts a steeper incline, and the “late period” works lead us to the summit. As a group that formed nearly 20 years ago, the San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet decided to go straight for the higher altitude, and recorded the final quartets first. With their new 3-CD set, cellist Jennifer Kloetzel explains why in my audio blog about their newest CD of Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” works, and violinist Tom Stone delves into the meanings of this music for their group throughout their career.