Miroirs Review: Cypress String Quartet Plays Brahms

Source: www.miroirsca.com
January 29, 2017
by Leeonne Lewis

San Francisco-based Cypress Quartet is a powerhouse ensemble that will be missed. After an artistically successful twenty-year run, this quartet split up in the summer of 2016, so their latest release of Brahms string sextets Op. 18 and Op. 36, in collaboration with violist Barry Shiffman and cellist Zuill Bailey, gives these performances an even sweeter hue.

Sometimes bigger is better. Many instrumentalists consider strings only repertoire the ultimate sonic experience – particularly when digging into the quartets of Schubert, Dvorak, Shostakovich and Mendelssohn’s Octet, written at age sixteen. Cypress Quartet’s acclaimed recordings of Beethoven’s complete string quartets are as engaging as their accounts of Debussy, Benjamin Lees and these sextets.

What makes this such a satisfying listening experience is a sense of expressive conviction and unity of sound this group brings to Brahms’ luscious melodies which are spun with an elegant display of slides, harmonics, pizzicato and translucent intonation, notably in the first sextet’s outer movements. There is also plenty of buttery lyricism infused with incisive rhythmic inflections in the second sextet’s Scherzo, which creates a seamless effect. This is meaty music-making and a perfect fit for Les Six, all of whom are strong individual players as displayed in the Andante, ma moderato of Op. 18 and Poco adagio of Op. 36 – where violas and cellos add opulent support. Cypress Quartet’s interpretations are further enriched by their use of instruments that include a Stradivarius, Bergonzi, Bellarosa (viola) and Hieronymus Amati II (cello).

Thanks for the musical memories Cecily Ward (violin), Tom Stone (violin), Ethan Filner (viola) and Jennifer Kloetzel (cello). And kudos to their longstanding partnership with Barry Shiffman, Artistic Director Designate of Rockport Music and Zuill Bailey, Artistic Director of Sitka Summer Music Festival.