This morning the Cypress String Quartet (CSQ) of violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner, and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel announced that their ensemble will disband this coming summer. On June 26 in the Green Room of the War Memorial Building, they will present a Farewell Concert honoring their twenty fulfilling years of performing as a group. This was a mutual decision among all four members that came after a great deal of reflection and discussion. They are deeply grateful to vast numbers of fans, donors, fellow musicians, and presenters for the support they have received over these past twenty years.
The first generation of CSQ was founded in San Francisco in 1996 by Ward, Stone, and Kloetzel. They were joined by Filner in 2001. At many of their Salon Series events, intimate occasions during which they would talk about their work as well as play the music, they would remind audiences that they first came together to get to know the full literature of string quartet music written by Ludwig van Beethoven. That goal has now moved from recital stages to the release of a series of recordings, which have been appearing in reverse chronological order. The three-CD box set of the “Late Period” quartets, covering the period between 1822 and 1826, was released in March of 2012. This was followed by the three-CD box set of the “Middle Period” (1806 to 1810) quartets in November of 2014. This coming May the project will come to completion with the release of the recordings of the “Early Period” quartets, the six quartets composed between 1798 and 1800 and published as Opus 18.
CSQ took their name from Antonín Dvořák’s arrangement for string quartet of twelve of the songs from his cycle of eighteen songs for voice and piano setting love poems by Gustav Pfleger Moravský and given the title Cypresses. Their approach to Dvořák’s music was as heartfelt and informed as was their knowledge of Beethoven, and in February of 2013 they released an album of all of the string quartet settings of Cypresses songs coupled with Dvořák’s Opus 106 quartet in G major. They also devoted the three concerts in their 2012–2013 Salon Series to playing the twelve quartet settings, four at each concert.
CSQ also distinguished itself in the Bay Area through its community outreach efforts. The annual Call & Response program combined commissioning a new work by a major composer with extensive engagement with Bay Area schools, culminating in a concert in San Francisco to which participating students would be invited at no charge. The title of the project came from the constraint that the commissioned composer was requested to “respond” to the “call” of one or more pieces in the string quartet repertoire. The source of that “call” usually involved a conclusion agreed upon to the mutual satisfaction of both the composer and all CSQ members. Over the years the compositions arising from this project would return in subsequent CSQ programming, thus demonstrating that the project itself emerged as an innovative approach to building both repertoire and a new generation of chamber music audiences.
Finally, there may have been signs that CSQ was thinking about passing the torch towards the end of last year. They had launched a “Music Moves” mentoring program for the benefit of recently-formed string quartet ensembles. Amaranth Quartet was the first group to enjoy two weeks of mentoring that took place this past October. That session ended with the Amaranth performers being invited to the opening Salon Series concert of the current 2015–2016 season.