Posts Tagged ‘composer’

Dvorak: Cypresses & Op.106 (2013) AV2275

Antonín Dvořák: Cypresses | String Quartet No.13 in G Major, Op.106

The acclaimed Cypress String Quartet plays the cycle of miniatures, inspired by unrequited love, from which the ensemble takes its name. More than three decades after writing Cypresses, Dvořák had turned from lovesick to homesick; a masterful demonstration of the intimate conversation of chamber music, the G major Quartet is also a song of thanksgiving for the composer’s return from the US to his native land. Previous discs from the CSQ have been praised by Gramophone for the ensemble's "intoxicating and lyrical" playing and "sheer instrumental mastery."

Available February 26, 2013
on Avie Records

  • Dvorak 1 1. Cypresses - No.1 "I know that in my love" 3:29
  • Dvorak 2 2. Cypresses - No.2 "The dead heart awakes again" 2:30
  • Dvorak 3 3. Cypresses - No.3 "When your sweet glances on me fall" 2:13
  • Dvorak 4 4. Cypresses - No.4 "Our love will never reach its aim" 3:35
  • Dvorak 5 5. Cypresses - No.5 "The old letter in my book" 2:51
  • Dvorak 6 6. Cypresses - No.6 "You are my glorious rose" 1:59
  • Dvorak 7 7. Cypresses - No.7 "There lived once my sweetheart" 1:51
  • Dvorak 8 8. Cypresses - No.8 "On the shore of the brook" 2:45
  • Dvorak 9 9. Cypresses - No.9 "My dearest one" 2:33
  • Dvorak 10 10. Cypresses - No.10 "There stands an ancient rock" 2:06
  • Dvorak 11 11. Cypresses - No.11 "Nature lies peaceful in slumber and dreaming" 2:27
  • Dvorak 12 12. Cypresses - No.12 "You ask why these songs of mine" 2:47
  • Dvorak 13 13. String Quartet No.13 in G Op.106 - I. Allegro moderato 9:33
  • Dvorak 14 14. String Quartet No.13 in G Op.106 - II. Adagio ma non troppo 10:14
  • Dvorak 15 15. String Quartet No.13 in G Op.106 - III. Molto vivace 7:03
  • Dvorak 16 16. String Quartet No.13 in G Op.106 - IV. Andante sostenuto - Allegro con fuoco 10:46
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How She Danced: String Quartets of Elena Ruehr

String Quartet #4 (2005) Commissioned by the Cypress String Quartet
String Quartet #3 (2001) Commissioned by the Rockport C.M.S.
String Quartet #1 (1991) Winner, ASCAP Award

The Cypress String Quartet released How She Danced: String Quartets of Elena Ruehr on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. The album includes acclaimed Boston-based composer Elena Ruehr's String Quartets No. 1 (1991), No. 3 (2001), and No. 4 (commissioned by the Cypress Quartet in 2005), and will be available on iTunes,,, and other major retailers. The disc was produced by Cypress first violinist Cecily Ward and Mark Willsher, and recorded at Skywalker Sound.

Included program notes feature an interview with the artists by Bill McGlaughlin, host of Saint Paul Sunday and Exploring Music.

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  • Ruehr 4-1 1. String Quartet #4 - Sonata: Introduzione; Andante con moto 7:26
  • Ruehr 4-2 2. String Quartet #4 - Aria: Andante 7:03
  • Ruehr 4-3 3. String Quartet #4 - Minuet: Grazioso 7:56
  • Ruehr 4-4 4. String Quartet #4 - Finale: Allegro molto 8:03
  • Ruehr 3-1 5. String Quartet #3 - Clay Flute 3:54
  • Ruehr 3-2 6. String Quartet #3 - The Abbey 8:55
  • Ruehr 3-3 7. String Quartet #3 - How She Danced 4:11
  • Ruehr 3-4 8. String Quartet #3 - Bell Call 6:30
  • Ruehr 1-1 9. String Quartet #1 - Patterns 7:39
  • Ruehr 1-2 10. String Quartet #1 - Interlude 3:35
  • Ruehr 1-3 11. String Quartet #1 - Let's Sit Beneath the Stars 5:26
  • Ruehr 1-4 12. String Quartet #1 - Estampie 4:09


For How She Danced: String Quartets of Elena Ruehr
"It's a brave move by the San Francisco-based Cypress Quartet to devote its new disc entirely to a contemporary composer, and a little-known name at that. But the music of Elena Ruehr, raised in Michigan and now teaching at MIT, is so appealing, and the performances by the Cypress players so persuasive, that the project brings rich rewards.Ruehr's music hovers between a resonant neo-Romanticism and more cerebral contrapuntal techniques, and it's full of rhythm, life and colour, immediately accessible to the listener but rich enough to repay repeated listenings. It's hard to imagine it being given more committed performances than these by the Cypress players."
Strad Magazine Review (April 2010 by David Kettle)
"Here is the fine young Cypress Quartet's cellist Jennifer Kloetzel explaining to Saint Paul Sunday’s Bill McGlaughlin how the San Francisco Quartet's close relationship to 46-year-old MIT composer Elena Ruehr came about: "A few years ago we decided to champion the composers whose music we like—by playing their music a lot and playing a lot of their music. We commission and recommission them and really get into their world, that's become something that's very important to us— Elena's become a real part of our musical lives." Her music is "infectious," says the ensemble's violist, Ethan Filner. You can say that again many times over after hearing the Cypress Quartet's recordings of Ruehr's Quartets Nos. 1, 3 and 4. The result of the quartet's immersion in Ruehr's musical world is one of the most appealing contemporary quartet discs in a very long time. The disc's title, "How She Danced," (Ruehr is a trained dancer as well as musician and composer) comes from the allegro third movement of Ruehr's Third Quartet and, as with so much of this, it sounds like the strongly tonal meeting point of Philip Glass' minimal-ism and the pan-ethnic folk-influenced music of the great early 20th century experimentalist Henry Cowell. In other words, it's where country reels and hoedowns and Hindu ritual and Balinese gamelan all somehow come together with the restless unison ostinatos of what was once "downtown" new music. A beautiful disc. ★★★ 1/2"
Buffalo News - Listening Post (March 2010 review by Jeff Simon)
"I was enchanted with this, my first acquaintance with the music of American composer Elena Ruehr, and I think you will be, too. A strong, engaging personality suffuses her music. She was born and spent her early years in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, an area of much natural beauty that is said to have the most beautiful fall colors in America. Her music reflects a variety of traditional and world influences in addition to her formal education under mentors William Bolcom, Milton Babbitt and Vincent Persichetti. The daughter of a mathematician, she admits to a fondness for solving intellectual puzzles such as 12-tone rows, but she decided at an early stage in her career to leave the complicated stuff beneath the surface of what people hear, incorporating it into the musical form (For the record, Mozart did much the same thing).As a result, her music, of which we get a good sampling here from String Quartets 1, 3 and 4, written between 1991 and 2005, is both accessible and challenging. We sometimes forget, in analyzing the art of the string quartet, how sensually beautiful the sound of these four strings can be. Ruehr reminds us. Her art consists in large part of long melodies, long intonations and exhalations, gorgeously swelling tones and smartly struck pizzicati. The members of the Cypress Quartet – Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violins; Ethan Filner, viola; and Jennifer Kloetzel, cello – attest to the challenges they encountered in performing these works in an interview with radio host Bill McGlaughlin, excerpted in the program notes. They speak from experience of the 17-bar melody with a canon in 3 parts, with all four players playing fragments of it here and there, in the slow movement of Quartet No. 3. In this movement, entitled "The Abbey" and taking its inspiration from the style of 12th Century Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, the chant-like melody is supported by a catchy rhythm derived from it. The trick, which the Cypresses bring out with deceptive ease, is to make the music sound as simple and natural as possible." Review (Feb 2010 by Phil Muse)

Benjamin Lees: String Quartets 1, 5 & 6

String Quartet No.1 (1952) String Quartet No.5 (2001) String Quartet No.6 (2005)

The highly personal style of American composer Benjamin Lees lends his music the lofty grandeur and sardonic wit, not only of Shostakovich but also of the Cubist and Surrealist artists, all of whom he so admires. Lees, who also shares Britten’s refined sense of harmony, delights in contrasts and surprises, enthralling the listener at every turn from the lyrical to the burlesque, the romantic to the brusque.

His fifth string quartet was chosen by Chamber Music America as one of its 101 Great Ensemble Works.

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  • 1. String Quartet No. 1 - Moderato 5:47
  • 2. String Quartet No. 1 - Adagietto 6:21
  • 3. String Quartet No. 1 - Allegro vivo 4:21
  • 4. String Quartet No. 5 - Measured 9:57
  • 5. String Quartet No. 5 - Arioso 6:27
  • Lees 5-3 6. String Quartet No. 5 - Quick, quiet 1:46
  • 7. String Quartet No. 5 - Explosive 7:50
  • 8. String Quartet No. 6 - Measured, dolorous 6:50
  • 9. String Quartet No. 6 - Calm, steady 5:13
  • 10. String Quartet No. 6 - Quiet, eerie 2:30
  • 11. String Quartet No. 6 - Unhurried 5:22
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Jennifer Higdon

Piano Trio (2003)
Voices (1993)
Impressions (2003)* *featuring the Cypress String Quartet

The Cypress String Quartet is featured on this Naxos release of Jennifer Higdon's chamber music with its recording of Impressions which it commissioned in 2003. Jennifer Higdon describes Impressions as "a musical response to the artists of the Impressionist period in both music (Debussy and Ravel) and painting (Monet and Seurat)".

Read more about Jennifer Higdon and the music on this recording here.

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  • 1. Piano Trio: I. Pale Yellow 7:53
  • 2. Piano Trio: II. Fiery Red 5:26
  • 3. Voices: I. Blitz 6:18
  • 4. Voices: II. Soft Enlacing 6:16
  • 5. Voices: III. Grace 5:01
  • Higdon 1 6. Impressions: I. Bright Palette 8:39
  • 7. Impressions: II. Quiet Art 8:06
  • Higdon 3 8. Impressions: III. To the Point 3:34
  • 9. Impressions: IV. Noted Canvas 6:23

American Record Guide, June 2007

Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962) teaches at Curtis and appears to have emerged as one of the top composers in the field, though this seems to be only her second major record release. Her big Concerto for Orchestra was recorded by Robert Spano on Telarc and generally well received by Mark Lehman (J/A 2004); it won a Grammy, too. This is her first recorded collection of chamber music, as far as I can tell.

Ms Higdon is somewhat aggressively marketed as an "accessible" composer. Not everything here will necessarily fit that description, but I can't imagine anyone not loving the first movement of the Trio (2003), a truly lovely eight-minute slow movement called, for some reason, 'Pale Yellow'. It is cut from the same American romantic cloth as Aaron Jay Kernis's Air-lyrical, sensitive, and even sublime. The fast, more dissonant toccata that follows ('Fiery Red') is playful enough not to offend the sensitive too badly. These are two apparently unrelated movements (or pieces), and the net effect is therefore not as impressive as it should have been. This was unfortunately recorded in concert at a music festival in Vail: sound is not very appealing.

The earlier Voices (1993) is a more "experimental" string quartet in three continuous "images". The first, 'Blitz', is a cartoon-music­like exercise in clusters and frenetic, parallel dissonance. II, 'Soft Enlacing', works with Ivesian overlay of vibrating tremolandos, hysterical melody, and glassy harmonics. The finale, 'Grace', opens with plaintive recitative-maybe a precursor to the Trio's first movement-and then leads to more impassioned declamation before its symmetrical return to the opening prayer. The overall effect seems more tentative than both later works on the program.

Impressions (2003), also for quartet, is named for the Impressionist movement and its practitioners in painting and music. Ms Higdon is aiming more for commentary on the Ravel and Debussy quartets than outright quotation. The effect is a lengthy, thoughtful homage. One is, of course, forced to think of the originals, which are pretty good and do not suffer by comparison. I ('Bright Palette') proceeds in regular block harmonies, more insistently square than you'll find in the composer's more fluid French models. II ('Quiet Art') has bits of harmonic parallelism and drifts along in aimless blocks of endless melody. III (To The Point') aims for the Ravel scherzo with its opening pizzicato, but its repeating two-bar figures resemble a passacaglia, though the composer says she was going for a Gamelan reference (following Debussy). IV ('Noted Canvas') is cyclical and ends with what amounts to a hoedown.

This is a well-crafted piece of chamber music; it might be of value at summer music festivals in programs with the originals, but I'm afraid it has limited value in itself. Naxos is marketing this with their growing catalog of women composers (Gloria Coates, Joan Tower, Margaret Brouwer, and Marion Bauer are listed at the end of the booklet).

Jay Cloidt: Spectral Evidence

eleven windows
Spectral Evidence

Jay Cloidt's latest CD features the premiere studio recordings of two ambitious and diverse works for string quartet, Spectral Evidence and eleven windows, performed by the Cypress String Quartet. Spectral Evidence begins with a straightforward performance of the first two minutes of a Mozart quartet. At first subtly then radically, the piece is broken down into parts and reassembled into a series of ten new movements. Meticulously recorded at George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch, the music is solely based on the deconstruction and reconstruction of the melodic materials found in the original opening section.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Jay Cloidt's exceptional score, a Mozart string quartet and its subtle deconstruction and transformation into something ominous, tracks the choreography every step of the way... the Cypress String Quartet... performs Cloidt's score masterfully."

Read more about Jay Cloidt and the music on this recording here.

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  • 1. eleven windows: Door 2:02
  • 2. eleven windows: Falling 1:31
  • 3. eleven windows: Ascending 0:50
  • 4. eleven windows: Brazali 2:10
  • 5. eleven windows: Gehenna 2:07
  • 6. eleven windows: Fast & Furious 0:44
  • 7. eleven windows: Canon Avenue 1:53
  • 8. eleven windows: Flick 1:16
  • 9. eleven windows: No Sound 1:19
  • 10. eleven windows: Infinite 1:31
  • 11. eleven windows: Kk 0:54
  • 12. Spectral Evidence: I 1:58
  • 13. Spectral Evidence: II 2:17
  • Spectral 3 14. Spectral Evidence: III 3:51
  • 15. Spectral Evidence: IV 2:42
  • 16. Spectral Evidence: V 3:36
  • 17. Spectral Evidence: VI 3:16
  • 18. Spectral Evidence: VII 3:13
  • 19. Spectral Evidence: VIII 1:40
  • 20. Spectral Evidence: VIIII 3:34
  • 21. Spectral Evidence: X 2:04
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Daniel Asia: Trilogy

Woodwind Quintet
String Quartet No.2* (1985) featuring the Cypress String Quartet
Brass Quintet

Daniel Asia (b. 1953) is a leading member of that talented post-World War II generation of American composers that includes Danielpour, Kernis, Schwantner, and Tower—among many others—who helped turn the tide of stylistic syntax away from the predominant serialist academicism of the 60s and 70s. The Second String Quartet of 1985 shows us Asia writing the kind of freely modified 12-note music one would expect from a pupil of Druckman and Schuller. But already one can sense in this serious and ambitious almost half-hour work an underlying urge to break free of the confines of ideological allegiances, as the movement headings "Cantabile; free and flowing—crisp and energetic" and "Majestic—dancing–majestic" would indicate. This score exhibits the same distinctive traits that would characterize his later and more tonally oriented works: a natural and unfettered thematic fertility coupled with a noticeable economy of content and coherence of form. All three ensembles provide beautifully judged and dynamically shaped readings with a top-drawer acoustic from Summit. All in all, this turns out to be one of the premier releases of American chamber music of 2004.

Read more about Daniel Asia and the music on this recording here.

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  • 1. Woodwind Quintet - I. Lively 2:15
  • 2. Woodwind Quintet - II. Moderately 2:34
  • 3. Woodwind Quintet - III. Fiery 2:03
  • 4. Woodwind Quintet - IV. Ruminative 3:43
  • 5. Woodwind Quintet - V. Impetous, darting 1:55
  • 6. Woodwind Quintet - VI. Fast And mercurial 1:50
  • 7. String Quartet No. 2 - I. Cantabile; free and flowing-crisp & energetic - presto 9:25
  • 8. String Quartet No. 2 - II. Moderato - free - moderato 7:01
  • 9. String Quartet No. 2 - III. Majestic - Dancing - majestic 6:30
  • Asia 2-4 10. String Quartet No. 2 - IV. Presto possible 3:36
  • 11. Brass Quintet - I. Moderato 5:55
  • 12. Brass Quintet - II. Tranquil and elegiac 7:40
  • 13. Brass Quintet - III. Fast and lively 4:25
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Debussy, Suk & Cotton

Claude Debussy: String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10
Josef Suk: Barcarolle & Ballade
Jeffery Cotton: String Quartet No. 1

The music featured on this disk represents the varied interests of the Cypress String Quartet; a "masterpiece", an overlooked "jewel", and a Cypress-commissioned quartet. The Debussy Quartet, written in 1893 in Paris, began a revolution in string writing that ushered in the 20th Century. Composed just a few years earlier but worlds away in Prague, the Suk pieces represent the end of the romantic period. The Jeffery Cotton Quartet, composed for the Cypress in 2003, looks back with respectful fascination at the string quartet tradition and leads us on an inspiring journey that ends in the heart of German Cabaret of the 1920's.

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  • Debussy 1 1. Claude Debussy Quartet in G Minor, Op.10 - I. Animé et trè décidé 6:06
  • Debussy 2 2. Debussy - II. Assez vif et bien rhythmé 3:44
  • Debussy 3 3. Debussy - III. Andatino doucement expressif 6:59
  • Debussy 4 4. Debussy - IV. Très modéré 7:13
  • Suk 1 5. Josef Suk Barcarolle & Ballade - I. Barcarolle 2:11
  • 6. Josef Suk Barcarolle & Ballade - II. Ballade 3:49
  • 7. Jeffery Cotton String Quartet No.1 - I. Overture 8:55
  • Cotton 2 8. Cotton - II. Capriccio 3:25
  • 9. Cotton - III. Chorale and Cabaret 10:49
  • 10. Cotton - IV. Variations 8:18


For Debussy, Suk & Cotton
"Say what you want about a crisis in classical music - the Cypress Quartet is not listening. This new recording of works by Debussy, Suk and Cotton is full of an overwhelming joy and enthusiasm for the cause. With an exceptional level of technical skill and thoroughly convincing interpretations they have created a beautiful addition to the catalogue. The unusual pairing of repertoire is consistent with their mission of celebrating the new and less known with the same level of commitment they bring to the 'standard' repertoire. The recorded sound is beautiful. Mark Willsher has captured a true and natural quartet sound, and there is a real intimacy to the overall effect of the recording. Bravo."
- Barry Shiffman, Director of Music Program, The Banff Centre