By Cristina Schreil
Anyone strolling around San Francisco hot spots in late spring might have encountered a bittersweet sight: the members of the esteemed Cypress Quartet performing Beethoven string quartets on the occasion of its disbanding. For those who missed it, this new album—the last of a titanic series tackling Beethoven’s treasured quartets—is one way to celebrate their going out with a bang, not a whimper.
The handsome album presents the celebrated quartet at their best, highlighting their nuanced, careful investigation into this repertoire, but also a fierce and spirited love for the music. The early String Quartets, Op. 18, were written around the same time as some of Haydn’s venerated last quartets, and the keenly aware Cypress players bring out the many hues in each of the six distinct works.
There are many highlights here. String Quartet in F major, No. 1, unfolds warmly and wonderfully. The second Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato movement, which the players navigate expertly, has an encroaching sorrow conjured with an enthralling synchronicity. The quartet members’ connection here is fantastic, with the shaping of many phrases bringing out nuances. The dynamic contrasts in String Quartet No. 2, in G major’s first movement are fantastic. The quartet’s Scherzo is especially vivid and tight. In the final movement of String Quartet No. 4 in C minor, the Cypress players deliver a crisp and vitalizing performance that bristles with energy. Chamber-music fans are sure to miss these four in conversation.