Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cypress String Quartet: Behind the Music

Cypress String Quartet
Call & Response
Mendelssohn Bicentennial Celebration
Behind the Music
Saturday, March 28, 12 – 1 pm
Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street, San Francisco

Mendelssohn, String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 13
Kevin Puts, Lento Assai (2009)
Beethoven, String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135

In this educational event, the Cypress String Quartet previewed their Call & Response concert coming up at Herbst Theater on Friday, April 3rd. The Quartet played excerpts from each of the works, & the musicians took turns talking to us about the connections between the pieces. It was a fairly technical discussion. We learned that Mendelssohn based the 1st movement of his quartet on the musical question posed by Beethoven in the last movement of his final quartet. Kevin Puts was commissioned to write a piece specifically for this program, & they demonstrated how he takes small elements of the Beethoven quartet & uses them in his own work. For instance, the 1st section is based on the opening chord of the 3rd movement of the Beethoven. Puts's version is drawn-out & sounds drowsy & a little mysterious. Another section, inspired by the scale-like melody of that same Beethoven movement, is more restless & agitated.

This was my 1st time hearing the Cypress String Quartet. Their playing is smooth & sweet, the sound of 1st violinist Cecily Ward especially so. They display exemplary communication & good listening. Their playing strives to draw the listener in. I expect that the Herbst Theater concert will be wonderful.

The venue was a small hall in the Community Music Center, which is a cute music school on a residential street in the Mission. It's in a large house, behind a garden set above the sidewalk. There were lots of kids in the audience, students at the school. A man who sat front row & center had what appeared to be a service dog at his feet. The dog was very patient, though his collar jangled occasionally. However, the dog was much more unobtrusive than another audience member whose cell phone went off loudly while one of the musicians was speaking.

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