Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cypress Quartet: Saying Farewell

1997: Cecily Ward, Tom Stone, recording engineer, Jennifer Kloetzel, Paul Wakabayashi
It was almost 20 years ago four musicians got together and formed the Cypress String Quartet. Near the end of that first season, Ellen Hughes, in organizing the first concert of the Next Generation Festival with pianist Awadagin Pratt, brought the quartet to Central PA for the first time. They've been coming back ever since.

In 2008, after another performance at Lebanon Valley College, I had a chance to talk briefly with 2nd Violinist Tom Stone:

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Contrary to what people may think, groups like this don’t always just get together when they’ve got a gig: some ensembles may spend a week getting a program ready; others play together full-time. When you play with the same people every day, year after year, and often play the same basic repertoire on your programs, you become familiar with how your colleagues are going to think and you have the luxury of getting beyond “just playing the notes.” This is the luxury of a full-time professional quartet, but also a challenge.

Talking with second violinist Tom Stone after the performance last night – our first conversation twelve years ago had been over an after-concert drink, talking mostly about Alban Berg’s “Lyric Suite” – he mentioned how they were not like a lot of quartets who were put together in school or at a summer music festival (or, for that matter, like the Ying Quartet, three brothers and a sister who all grew up together in the same family). They were free-lance musicians who needed to make a living but decided to make the commitment to making this quartet work by dedicating lots and lots of time – like rehearsing six hours a day – to reach that goal. And this is, after all, their “day job.”

The Debussy Quartet was on their very first program twelve years ago, he said in remarks before they played it. There was so much in the piece they discovered while first working on it – though he said jokingly, looking back at his colleagues, “that first performance was... uh, was kinda rough...” And ever since they’ve kept coming back to it and discovering more.

(You can read the entire post, here, including my review of that 2008 performance of the Debussy.)
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Now they've decided to disband - and will be making their last appearance here Thursday at 7:30 at Lebanon Valley College's Lutz Hall, playing two Beethoven quartets (Op. 18/1 and Op.59/3) and some of the Novelettes of Alexander Glazunov. The concert will also be a memorial tribute to their friend and mentor, Ellen Hughes, former Market Square Concerts director, who died this past June.

For details, you can read more about the quartet and this program at Thoughts on a Train, here.

Here's a more current photo of the quartet with cellist Zuill Bailey following a recent concert at Zuill's music festival in Sitka, Alaska.
2016: Cecily Ward, Ethan Filner, Zuill Bailey, Jennefire Kloetzel, Tom Stone
(Zuill Bailey was also a regular with the Next Generation Festival and is also a frequent performer in Central PA, having also appeared with Market Square Concerts and the Harrisburg Symphony. Zuill plays the 1st Cello Concerto by Shostakovich with the symphony at this weekend's Masterworks Concerts.)

The Cypress Quartet's complete set of the Complete Beethoven Quartets will be released on the Avie label in May. Their final concert together will be June 26th in San Francisco.

- Dick Strawser

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