The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Quartets that express different aspects of the American experience
Musicians: Cypress Quartet
Composer: Dvorák, Griffes, Barber

The booklet describes the Cypress sound as being built up from the bottom register, and in Ethan Filner’s introductory viola motif to Dvo?ák’s ‘American’ Quartet we find that generous rounded quality that sets the scene for a performance combining warmth and inner clarity. The dynamic range of the opening movement is never exaggerated and moves forward with admirable urgency. The Lento avoids sentimentality, the scherzo is lightweight, and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel resists the temptation to dig too deep into her strings in the bubbling account of the finale.

I find it strange that the Barber Quartet is not more frequently heard. The Cypress players offer a dramatic view of the two outer movements, surrounding a restrained account of the slow movement that became his most frequently performed work in its guise as the Adagio for Strings.

Charles Griffes’s Two Sketches Based on Indian Themes is a real rarity, featuring native American songs, with a sombre opening Lento – a farewell song – contrasting with a highly energised and attractive second sketch. Here as throughout the disc, the Cypress’s gorgeous tonal quality reflects the celebrated instruments they play (including a 1681 Stradivari), and the engineers provide a totally realistic sound in a compact venue.