Dvorák: Cypresses for String Quartet; String Quartet No. 13
Dvorák's "Cypresses" are a series of songs he wrote as a young man during a period of infatuation. Like Mozart and Haydn, he eventually married the younger sister of the object of his desire, and in later life he remained fond of these quintessentially passionate, effusively melodic works, arranging them for string quartet in 1887. He didn't do a great deal to their basic content, and they remain very much youthful pieces. California's Cypress String Quartet perhaps decided to record them purely because of the coincidence of name, but its energetic style is beautifully suited to these works. It also delivers a strong performance of Dvorák's "String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106," a work that somehow seems to reward youthful enthusiasm. The Cypress String Quartet is said to have built its style up from a lengthy series of exercises playing Bach chorales; the sound is a bit bass-heavy is deployed to beautiful effect at the beginning of the slow movement. The group's involvement in the music shows through in the big space it takes to draw contrast between scherzo and trio, and in the hell-for-leather finale, one of Dvorák's most satisfying creations. A shortcoming here is the sound from, of all places, Skywalker Studios in Marin County, which overmikes the group and makes the violins sound a bit shrill. But there's a certain X factor of sheer excitement that makes a Dvorák chamber music recording worth hearing, and the Cypress String Quartet has it.