This week on Crossover it's the San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet. The quartet is named after a set of songs by Antonin Dvorak based on the poems of the Moravian author Gustav Pfleger-Moravsky. Up until now, the quartet had not recorded its namesake work. But that's changed with the Cypress String Quartet's latest release on the Avie label, Dvorak: Cypresses & Op. 106. Aside from the Cypresses for String Quartet, which is a cycle of miniatures inspired by unrequited love, the CD also has a performance of Dvorak's expansive String Quartet No. 13 in G Major, Opus 106.
As the quartet's cellist, Jennifer Kloetzel, tells the story, the Cypresses for String Quartet (also known as Cypress Trees) were written when Dvorak was 24 and smitten with unrequited love for a 16-year-old pupil. When the pupil wound up marrying another man, Dvorak ended up marrying her younger sister. Dvorak chose never to publish the songs in their original form, but he used material from several of the songs in his Symphonies 1 and 2, in his operas, and other vocal works.
In 1887, he took 12 of the songs and revised them for string quartet in a grouping he called Echo of Songs. They were not published until after his death, and the title "Cypresses" was conferred upon them at the time of their publication in 1921.
Known internationally through touring and a dozen acclaimed recordings, the Cypress String Quartet traverses repertoire from J.S. Bach – the composer whose work forged the ensemble's signature clear and transparent sound – to world premieres of works they have commissioned from such composers as Jennifer Higdon, Kevin Puts, and Elena Ruehr. In addition to appearances in such renowned venues as the Kennedy Center, the Ravinia Festival and Cal Performances, the Quartet reaches out to new audiences through regular performances in community centers, unorthodox spaces, and schools.
We'll be listening this week to several of Dvorak's Cypresses, plus some of his G Major Quartet No. 13. And Jill catches up with the happenings of the Cypress String Quartet with its cellist Jennifer Kloetzel.
Crossover airs Saturday morning at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 pm on HD-2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.