The late string quartets of Beethoven, against which virtually every subsequent composer has had to compare his/her own works in the genre, are no small undertaking for any ensemble, particularly a younger quartet. Grasping the emotional depth and profundity is a significant challenge in the last five quartets, and a keen interpretive sense and introspection are absolutely necessary for a successful performance. This album, Volume 1 devoted to the late quartets, by the young but engaging Cypress String Quartet features the revolutionary seven-movement Op. 131 String Quartet and the more classically centered Op. 135 Quartet. In both cases, the Cypress Quartet does an admirable job both technically and musically. The wrenching opening of the first movement of Op. 131 is played with a great deal of controlled intensity, fluidity of dialogue between the four independent voices, and an exceptional command of pacing and dynamics that holds listeners' attention from the first note to the last. This fine attention to detail is not confined to the quartet's many slow sections; the final, almost brutal seventh movement is equally intense and powerful without becoming frenetic. The Op. 135 Quartet, a totally contrasting composition despite being written only months after Op. 131, is executed with a nice balance between intensity and classical lightness. The sophisticated rhythms of the second movement are tossed off with playful ease. The quartet's tone is generally quite pleasing, with a strong presence from the lower and middle voices, and nice balance all around. There are times when the first violin's sound becomes a bit shrill and overly bright, but this does not significantly detract from the enjoyment of the album.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131|
|String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135|