NAPA VALLEY REGISTER: Cypress plays Saturday at Jarvis

Source: Napa Valley Register
January 20, 2016
David Kerns

The Cypress String Quartet is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Based in San Francisco, the foursome has performed throughout North America, Europe and Japan, and along the way recorded 15 albums. In the second of a series of three concerts at Jarvis Conservatory, Cypress will play three Beethoven quartets this Saturday evening, Jan. 23. Jennifer Kloetzel, cellist and one of the founding members, talked about the quartet’s anniversary. “We are celebrating it all season,” she said, “and our celebrations mostly hinge around Beethoven. In May, we’re releasing the entire Beethoven cycle, all 16 quartets, on our record label. That’s a project that’s been going on since about 2007. “Over our 20 years together, our work has been to explore and capture and re-envision and bring Beethoven into today. We did the full cycle in Prague, Vienna and Budapest in late October, early November. That was sort of the kickoff for this big celebration.” “In May, we’re doing a special project in San Francisco,” Kloetzel said. “We will be performing each of the 16 quartets in a public location in each of the districts of the city. Some will be big — Golden Gate Bridge in the background kind of thing — and some will be in a soup kitchen or an arts festival or other locations. They’ll be free, open to the public and pop-up style. ‘Come hear Opus 18, # 2 in City Hall on this day at this time.’ “I feel like it’s part of our mission to get the music out there and make people less afraid of it, or feel less like they don’t know anything about it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people love good music, regardless of whether it’s Beethoven or Dixieland.” The Cypress String Quartet is Kloetzel on cello, Cecily Ward and Tom Stone on violins, and Ethan Filner on viola. “Three of us are the original founding members,” Kloetzel said. “Ethan, our violist, we still tease him and call him 'the new guy' 15 years later." The cellist talked about longevity among chamber ensembles and the importance of continuity of the musicians. “There’s the Amadeus Quartet, who were one of our models,” she said. “They were together for 35 years, I believe, with the same four people who founded it. And there’s the Guarneri Quartet, another group that was together for a long period of time. “We are one of the groups in the U.S. who’ve had the same set of musicians for a while. What’s interesting about chamber music, really, is when you change any player you start from square one again, because you don’t have the repertoire with that player and hopefully that player has a unique voice and you’re all shaping the music together." Kloetzel recalled the challenge of incorporating a new violist after the group had been together for five years. “We felt like we had to start over again in a way,” she said. “We already had many performances under our belts and ideas about what we wanted to be as an ensemble. But making sure that we had equal voices was important. “It’s not just like, ‘Here’s this quartet. There’s an identity. You need to fit into it.’ It’s more like, ‘What do we want to be?’ I think that’s always the question. ‘Who are we? What are we moving to? What are our strengths? What are our goals? What are our ideals? Are we living up to them?’ That’s something we spend a lot of time talking about and figuring out together. “Something we decided early on was how important it was that there be consensus, and not compromise. We don’t have a conductor that we look to as the person who chooses the repertoire. We have an equal voice in there. It’s important, and consensus can take a long time.” The quartet most recently performed at Jarvis in October 2015. “I love this spot, the Jarvis Conservatory,” Kloetzel said. “It’s beautiful, a jewel of a theater. We’re so grateful to the Jarvises for building it and letting us play there. The concert hall is the fifth member of any quartet, and that’s a great one to hear this kind of music in."