Phil's Classical Reviews
by Phil Muse
Brahms: The String Sextets -Cypress String Quartet, with Barry Shiffman, viola; Zuill Bailey, cello (Avie)
These recordings were made before a live studio audience on 26-30 April 2016, just before the Cypress String Quartet, consisting of Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violins; Ethan Filner, viola; and Jennifer Kloetzel, cello, made their farewell appearances at the Sitka Summer Music Festival and their own “Beethoven in the City” concerts at various San Francisco venues. In a sense, however, these two Brahms sextets, symphonic in scope and breadth (76 minutes combined) and filled with a wide range of emotions, make for an even more satisfying valedictory. read more »
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. read more »
June 6, 2016
by Jon Sobel
The Cypress String Quartet‘s new two-CD set of Beethoven’s Op. 18, known as his Early String Quartets, completes the group’s 20-year project of studying and recording all the composer’s string quartets, a form he took from Haydn and sculpted into a body of work the likes of which the music world had never seen – nor has it seen since.
Beethoven said he based the slow movement of Quartet No. 1 on the death scene in Romeo and Juliet. On the Cypress’s recording, the driving figures that burst from the middle section of the slow movement lurch out of the speakers like stumbling ogres. It’s jarring at first. Then it asserts a devil-may-care passion that feels just right. The first violin even supplies a Heifetz-esque romantic flourish at the end.
By finding the shadows in No. 1’s jaunty finale, the musicians put a final accent on the assertion that the Op. 18 quartets already display, as Jan Swafford’s liner notes say, “the kind of singular expressiveness, the unity and dramatic unfolding that would mark all of Beethoven’s mature works.” read more »
BBC Music Magazine
by Bayan Northcott
The Cypress String Quartet is a San Francisco-based outfit of almost 20 years standing which has already won praise for its albums of middle and late Beethoven Quartets. They play an impressive array of vintage instruments including a Strad and an Amati and, in addition to their faultless intonation, they command a wide spectrum of tone attack, colour and expression. read more »
Source: The Whole Note
September 28, 2016
by Lesley Mitchell-Clarke
Beethoven: The Early String Quartets (AVIE AV2348) is a 2CD set of the Opus 18 quartets by the Cypress String Quartet that not only completes their recording of the complete cycle but also marks their final season; after 20 years together the quartet disbanded after a concert in San Francisco on June 26. Their 2012 self-released recordings of the late quartets have also been reissued as a 3CD set alongside this new issue; their recording of the middle quartets was released on AVIE Records in 2014.
This is the only volume of the series that I have heard, and it really made me want to listen to the others, especially to see what the ensemble does with the late quartets. The playing here never lacks bite and intensity when it’s needed, but there’s an overall sensitivity and thoughtfulness which is very appealing; this is refined playing, but never superficial. It’s also very strong rhythmically, particularly in the tricky start to the Presto final movement of the Op.18 No.3 D Major quartet, which can so easily be quite ambiguous without a clearly defined pulse.
August 18, 2016
by Cristina Schreil
August 1, 2016
by Timothy Judd
After 20 years, the San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet disbanded earlier this summer. The group’s legacy includes 30 newly commissioned works by composers such as George Tsontakis, Jennifer Higdon, and Kevin Puts and 17 recordings. In terms of its discography, the Cypress’ crowning achievement came in May with the release of the complete Beethoven string quartets. A detailed exploration of the Beethoven quartets was one of the Cypress’ central objectives from day one. read more »
August 3, 2016
The Cypress bows out with Beethoven’s early set of six string quartets
AVIE AV 2348 (Two CDs)
The Cypress Quartet has now played its last concerts – a Beethoven cycle at an Alaskan festival – and this recording is a fitting envoi to two decades of music making based around America’s West Coast (an encore of Brahms’s sextets was recorded within the final tour). In these unhurried, considered readings of op.18 the quartet shows Beethoven not so much confronting a tradition inherited from Haydn and Mozart as assimilating it within his own emerging voice. read more »
Source: Berkeley Daily Planet
June 29, 2016
By James Roy MacBean
On Sunday, June 26, at 3:00 in the afternoon, with all the pandemonium of Gay Pride celebrations going on outside in the Civic Center, the Cypress String Quartet performed their Farewell Concert in the newly opened Taube Atrium Theatre of San Francisco’s War Memorial Building. After twenty years of playing together (fifteen years with Ethan Filner as violist), the Cypress String Quartet, composed of Cecily Ward and Tom Stone on violin, Jennifer Kloetzel on cello, and Ethan Filner on viola), is now disbanding to allow each member to pursue other musical endeavors. During their twenty-year run, the San Francisco-based Cypress Quartet has made many recordings, including the complete Beethoven String Quartets, and has been internationally recognized as one of the very best string quartets in the world. They have also carried out an extensive outreach program to bring classical music into classrooms at all levels, from inner city elementary schools in San Jose to high schools and universities throughout the Bay Area. The Cypress Quartet also spent two full weeks in May of this year performing the complete Beethoven String Quartets in a free series of public concerts at outdoor venues throughout all neighborhoods of San Francisco. If they are now disbanding, we can only be grateful, not only for twenty years of wonderful music-making, but also for the way the Cypress Quartet has gone out with a bang, sharing with us all their joy in music-making. read more »
June 27, 2016
By Stephen Smoliar
The original members of the Cypress String Quartet (CSQ), violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Paul Wakabayashi, and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, first gathered to make music on July 10, 1996. Over the following years the group had only one replacement, when Ethan Filner became the violist. Yesterday afternoon in the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater in the Veterans Building, only a few weeks short of twenty years later, the group gathered to give their Farewell Concert. They prepared a program (with encores) that well represented the breadth of their efforts to study and present the string quartet repertoire, including four selections all composed after 2000, three of which were written on commission.
Much of their reputation was established by their knowledgeable command of the full canon of string quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven, making it more than appropriate that Beethoven should lead off that program. Singling out one of these compositions was not easy; but they finally settled on Opus 95 in F minor, to which Beethoven gave the title “Quartetto serioso.” This was not a matter of beginning the event on a somber note but simply a recognition that Opus 95 was the shortest of the sixteen quartets, acknowledging the need to give just as much attention to the other composers on the program. read more »
Source: SF Chronicle
June 27, 2016
By Joshua Kosman
The old showbiz mantra says you should always leave ’em wanting more, and that truth has rarely felt as apt as it did during the farewell concert Sunday afternoon, June 26, by the Cypress String Quartet.
For 20 years, this energetic ensemble — now comprising violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel — has offered audiences an array of musical treasures, including not only works of the standard repertoire but also the fruits of a long and dedicated commissioning program. The group’s decision to disband will leave a distinctive gap in the artistic landscape. read more »
By Frances Phillips, Program Director, Arts and The Creative Work Fund
The Walter & Elise Haas Fund joins with grantees and collaborators to ensure access and create opportunity for everyone. Normally, that involves bringing organizations, programs, and services to life. In the case of the Cypress String Quartet, however, our push for greater access to quality arts experiences for all is tied to helping a celebrated ensemble bring its work to a close.
Violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner, and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel celebrate their 20th and final season as the Cypress String Quartet with a series of free concerts. Over the next two weeks, they are performing all of Beethoven’s 16 string quartets in locations distributed across the city of San Francisco. Each concert makes live, free, high-quality chamber music accessible to many who would otherwise likely lack access. read more »
May 7, 2016
Commitment is important if any kind of relationship is to have lasting value. When a group of people band together and commit themselves to a common goal the results can be simply remarkable. We see this in music quite often, whether it is within an orchestra or a chamber ensemble.
The successful string quartet, for example, consists of four musicians who have formed an alliance in order to achieve a common goal that all four individuals have realized make up the center of their collective being. Yes, it is a very emotional commitment, indeed. For it is the emotional commitment to excellence that results in such ensembles as San Francisco’s Cypress String Quartet. For the past twenty years violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel have set new standards for community outreach with their neighborhood concerts as well as the commissioning of new works from leading contemporary composers in their numerous “Call and Response” projects. And with a repertoire of 18th and 19th century music from composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Dvorak to 20th and 21st century composers as Schulhoff, Griffes, Lees, Higdon, Puts and others, the Cypress String Quartet has built a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as one of this generation’s finest American ensembles. read more »
May 5, 2016
by Joshua Kosman
Media: Tim Hussin
The regulars at St. Anthony Dining Room in the Tenderloin have the drill down pat — the flow of the food line, the protocol for getting second helpings, the sight of familiar faces. What they didn’t anticipate on Wednesday, May 4, was having a string quartet regale them with Beethoven’s music while they ate a free lunch.
“Well, that was special, and unexpected,” said Cathy Carpenito, a 40ish San Francisco resident who had dropped into the facility with her friend Sly Ham, 59. “We were walking by and just saw the violins through the window.” read more »
May 3, 2016
by Marc Macnamara
The Cypress String Quartet returns on May 4 for two weeks of free concerts. The program includes the complete string quartets of Beethoven, whose works are at the heart of their repertory.
It’s also a celebration of the quartet’s 20th anniversary; a thank-you gesture to San Francisco for having been such a reliable host all these years, and also what you might think of as a dramatization of the ‘gospel of unexpected beauty.’
The series lasts through May 19. Venues include St. Anthony’s Dining Room, the West Sunset Playground, Justin Herman Plaza, Japantown’s Peace Plaza, Mission Dolores Park, Jane Warner Plaza, Ft. Funston, Bernal Heights, General Hospital, the park at Hayes and Octavia, the City Hall Rotunda, Sutro Baths, the Botanical Gardens, and Yerba Buena Gardens. read more »
By Elizabeth Bloom
April 27, 2016
If you didn't see the Cypress String Quartet perform at Carnegie Music Hall this week, you probably missed your chance to hear them live.
The San Francisco-based quartet announced earlier this year that it will disband in June, so the ensemble’s concert on Monday represented both its debut and its swan song in the Chamber Music Pittsburgh series.
But the quartet’s legacy will live on in the form of a robust trail of recordings, including three of the four works featured on Monday's long program. read more »
By Jessie Schiewe
April 27, 2016
On November 9, 1822, Prince Nicholas Galitzine of Russia sent a letter to Beethoven asking for three string quartets at a price "you think proper." More than two months later, Beethoven wrote back, accepting the commission and quoting each opus at 50 ducats. Though this wasn't Beethoven's first string quartet, it was in this later period of his life — he died in 1827 — that he wrote the bulk of them, while occasionally ill and bedridden. read more »
Source: www.mercurynews.com By Georgia Rowe, corresepondent April 25, 2016
Throughout its 20-year career, the Cypress String Quartet has performed thousands of concerts, commissioned dozens of new works, recorded more than 15 albums and earned a loyal following in the Bay Area. The San Francisco-based foursome -- Cecily Ward and Tom Stone (violins), Ethan Filner (viola) and Jennifer Kloetzel (cello) -- has been heard in concert halls across North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America and on the popular Netflix series, "House of Cards."
All good things must end, however, and earlier this year, the Cypress announced that this season would be its last. The quartet plays its final salon concerts May 13-22 in Berkeley, San Francisco and Palo Alto; a farewell concert is scheduled for June 26 at the Green Room in San Francisco's Veteran's Building. read more »
By Cy Musiker
April 28, 2016
May 4 – June 26: The Cypress String Quartet set out 20 years ago to play and record all of Beethoven’s string quartets (with a few detours for some modern composers). Now that they’re done, they’re disbanding. It’s not, said cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, that they aren’t still finding fresh insights into Beethoven’s amazing cycle of quartets: read more »
by Larry R. Larson
Cypress String Quartet performs “Beethoven in the City,” 16 free concerts throughout San Francisco in a farewell “tour around town.”
“We’ve been forged in the fires of Beethoven,” declares Jennifer Kloetzel, Cypress String Quartet cellist. After a distinguished two-decade run, the Quartet—whose other members are violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone and violist Ethan Filner—is capping its legacy with a series of free concerts across San Francisco under the umbrella title “Beethoven in the City.” “Not a week has gone by in the past 20 years that we haven’t played, talked about, rehearsed or recorded this music,” Kloetzel says.
The series comprises 16 string quartets of Ludwig von Beethoven that span the composer’s life. They are arguably the most intimate and personal of his works, offering a spiritual journey of Western culture. Cypress will play each of the quartets in a “pop-up” concert in 16 different locations in the city. read more »
Cypress Quartet Starts Its Farewells with Beethoven and a New Dan Coleman Opus
March 14, 2016
Dan Coleman’s clever and quite beautiful world premiere work for the Cypress String Quartet could well have been titled the “Permutations Quartet,” as he exploited the various combinations of duets and trios available in the new opus, methodically presenting one after the other. He has a gift for highly lyrical and alluring counterpoint, giving the illusion of musicians’ total effortlessness. Each one is equally into thematic material; there is no accompaniment as such. His sound is totally consonant, but it brings out his own voice in this piece entitled String Quartet No. 3 (“together, as the river”), quoting a Louise Glück poem. read more »
Source: Alaska Dispatch News
February 4, 2016
When Anchorage lovers of chamber music hear the two sextets by Johannes Brahms this weekend, they’ll be getting a sneak preview. Most of the performers will reunite to record the pair of masterworks later this spring.
The Cypress String Quartet has made a reputation over the past 20 years with fine playing and cutting-edge commissions; they’ve logged thousands of concerts around the world and produced at least 15 albums. The extra cellist in both the Anchorage performance and the recording will be Zuill Bailey, the director of the Alaska Classics chamber music series and the Sitka Summer Music Festival. Former festival director Paul Rosenthal will play the additional viola part in Anchorage. (It will go to Barry Shifman when the pieces are recorded in an upcoming live performance.) read more »
February 6, 2016
Although all three concerts in the Alaska Airlines Winter Classics chamber music series sold out before it opened, additional seats have been put onstage. On Friday night some were added to the sides of the balcony. It’s a narrow, somewhat precarious location, but one was pleased to see the UAA Recital Hall full.
Friday’s program opened with Debussy’s fiery Cello Sonata in D Minor. Zuill Bailey, accompanied by pianist Eduard Zilberkant, made the most of the cello part, which is one of the most emotionally charged pieces in the literature, full of angst and fury. There have been other times when a solo string instrument shared the stage with a piano that had its lid all the way open, and the result was that one struggled to hear the string. That was not the case here. The cello more than held its own. In places, it boomed. read more »
After 20 years the Cypress String Quartet is coming to music’s end. The last notes will be played in a farewell concert in the Green Room of the War Memorial Building on June 26.
The denouement includes a series of three Bay Area concerts (Brahms Sextets), February 12 – 14, as well as month-long Beethoven celebration in May, in San Francisco where the group Is based.
The current quartet, a nonprofit organization, includes violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone; violist Ethan Filner; and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, who spoke with us recently about the decision to stop. read more »
January 27, 2016
After 20 productive years, San Francisco’s noted Cypress String Quartet is disbanding, playing its farewell concert June 26 in the Green Room of the War Memorial Building.
The globe-trotting foursome, whose accomplishments include its innovative Call & Response program — they commissioned and premiered works by contemporary composers responding to familiar chamber pieces — decided to call it quits “after a great deal of reflection and discussion,” according to its announcement. “The quartet agrees that it is the right time for them to move on and explore new artistic territories as individuals.” The group, which consists of violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, viola player Ethan Filner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, caps its career with the release of its final recording, the complete Beethoven quartets, on Avie Records in May. And to thank the supportive hometown crowd, it plans to play all 16 of those quartets during a monthlong series of performances at venues across San Francisco.