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Cypress Quartet Unveils Album of Beethoven's Early String Quartets

By Philip Trapp on Apr 04, 2016 02:15 PM EDT

San Francisco's Cypress String Quartet is the latest chamber ensemble to tackle the entirety of Ludwig van Beethoven's synoptic string quartet arrangements. The group's newest volume, Beethoven: The Early String Quartets, will be released by Avie Records on May 6.

A popular approach for chamber musicians as lovers of Beethoven's heralded oeuvre, the Cypress Quartet has performed and recorded the entirety of Beethoven's Quartets. Similar to the Elias String Quartet, the project was a vast undertaking spanning many years.

The Cypress Quartet has taken a reverse-chronological approach, with this collection of Early String Quartets completing its String Quartets discography. As the group members explained in an interview on their website, their love of Beethoven's Quartets inspired their desire to perform:

"[W]e plunged into the center of the late Quartets when we formed thirteen years ago. In the summer of 1996, one of the first pieces we learned together (and performed a lot) was the Op. 132 Quartet. At that time, people told us we were crazy -- that we had to be more mature to even approach these pieces, but the four of us loved this music so much, it's probably what made us want to form a quartet in the first place."

The forthcoming album of Early Quartets will be released alongside a reissue of their 2012 Late String Quartets volume. The troupe's Middle String Quartets album was issued in 2014.

Beethoven's Early String Quartets encompass the total of his Opus 18: Six String Quartets, also including two fragmentary works from the Hess catalogue.

As noted on the Avie Records website, the group has dedicated itself to completing this remarkable musical mission, all while performing Beethoven's works on tour across the globe:

"For the past several seasons, the Cypresses have immersed themselves in performing Beethoven on tours throughout the United States and Europe as well as recording all 16 works plus the 'Grande Fugue' (Große Fuge)."

Below, listen to the ensemble's rousing rendition of the fourth movement of Opus 135: String Quartet No. 16, the last of Beethoven's Late String Quartets. Let us know what you think of the piece in the comments field below.

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TagsCypress String Quartet, Beethoven