Beethoven gets the Cypress sound

Classical Music Magazine
September 12, 2009

Beethoven from the bottom up: The Cypress Quartet's sound flows from the sound of cellist Jennifer Kloetzel

Many instrumentalists cite Bach's works as a seminal influence, but the chorales for a string quartet? 'From the first summer we got together we have played them and we still do it otten at rehearsals,' says Jennifer Kloetzel, the Cypress Quartet's cellist. 'They are so beautiful, and we can work on chords, intonation and who is leading,'

Violinist Tom Stone adds: 'We all have different musical backgrounds and different personalities. Working with Bach together we found a real unified voice.'

It is one of several unusual aspects of the quartet, which has just launched a three-disc survey of the late Beethoven quartets.

'Most quartets are formed at college or university; Stone says. 'The other violinist in the quartet, Cecily Ward, and I decided at school to form a quartet and we called a whole lot of people to try to find the perfect match.'

With violist Ethan Filner they have found that, and all four pledged not to take outside work but play only as a quartet. Soon after formation in 1996 the San Francisco-based ensemble wenton a pilgrimage to London to work with the three surviving members of the Amadeus Quartet. 'We learned so much about Beethoven - his sense of humour, for example,' Stone says.

The visit also helped the Cypress define its sound. 'It is built from my sound, from the bass up, which harmonically makes sense,' Kloetzel says. 'People often say it's an unmistakeable sound.'

The four regard the Beethoven disc as their first major recording, but they consistently champion contemporary composers through their Call & Response programme - which seeks a modern response to a designated established classical work. The Cypress' recording of quartets by Benpmin Lees has just been released on Naxos, and in February the group will issue a recording ofworks by Elena Ruehr on its own label.

But the players believe they are also bringing something new to Beethoven. Stone says: 'I think we have revealed Beethoven's general humanity, rather than Just his drama and idiosyncrasies. The harmonic structure and form of this music are what we focused on, and I think the result is a recording that glows in a very organic and positive way.'