Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cypress String Quartet at the Rex Hotel

San Francisco Performances
Salons at the Rex

Wednesday, January 20 6:30pm
Hotel Rex

Cypress String Quartet
Cecily Ward, violin
Tom Stone, violin
Ethan Filner, viola
Jennifer Kloetzel, cello

Claude Debussy: String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10
Jennifer Higdon: Impressions
Erwin Schulhoff: Five Pieces for String Quartet

Hotel rexI like the setting of these short chamber recitals in the salon at the Hotel Rex. It's like being at a private event in someone's living room. The Cypress String Quartet covered a lot of ground in just one hour. They began with a vigorous peformance of the 1st 2 movements of the Debussy quartet. This was followed by the 2 inner movements of the Jennifer Higden quartet: an elegaic slow movement that builds to a lump-in-the-throat climax & a scherzo of pizzicatos & nervous energy. This is a major work, & I was left wanting to hear the whole thing.

They concluded with a suite of 5 contrasting dance pieces by Erwin Schulhoff, who is new name to me. Though short, the pieces are meaty, & their earthy, foot-stomping rhythms are catchy. There's an Eastern European feeling about them. These pieces are a favorite of the quartet, & their lively performance made me want to hear more of his music. Schulhoff himself seems to have been an intense character: a Czech Jew living in Prague, a communist who took on Russian citizenship, a jazz performer & ultimately a victim of a Nazi concentration camp.

As is their practice, members of the quartet took turns talking to the audience, providing background information or discussing their relationship to the repertoire as performers. The quartet has mellow, smooth sound. I like the large, effortless sound of the cello & the bite of violist's playing. They play with a strong sense of investment, as if their primarily role is to be advocates for the music. They succeeded with me, as I left wanting to hear more Higdon & Schulhoff.


John Marcher said...

The Cypress String Quartet are great advocates for living composers. One night I will make it to the Rex for one of their salons.

Immanuel Gilen said...

Erwin Schulhoff is one of the composers Anne-Sofie von Otter focused on for her 'Theresienstadt' project about composers who perished in WW2 concentration camps. I didn't really care for the music that much, but his personal circumstances make the music compelling nonetheless.

Axel Feldheim said...

Yes, we must see you at one of the salons, Mr. Marcher. The events are short, one hour, but an excellent value because of the intimacy of the venue. Regulars arrive early to buy a class of wine at the bar & then bring it into the room.

Mr. Gilen: Perhaps Schulhoff is one of those composers who needs sympathetic interpreters to really work. The Cypress Quartet certainly convinced me. The Five Pieces were quite accessible & even humorous.

Daniel said...

Glad you enjoyed the concert. My name is Daniel, and I am the Manager of Administration and Educations with the Quartet. I wanted to let you know that the Cypress has recorded both the Higdon and the Schulhoff and both are available on our website:

Thanks again for coming out to hear the Cypress Quartet at the Rex.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks, Daniel. It's good to know that the Higdon has been recorded. The "name your price" download option on the Web site is an interesting alternative to purchasing the Schulhoff CD.