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Classical 101

The End of an Era: The Cypress String Quartet Performs Farewell Concert Sunday after 20-Year Run

color photo of the members of the Cypress Quartet standing outdoors on stone steps
Basil Childers
Cypress String Quartet website
The Cypress String Quartet

Sunday afternoon the members of one of the world’s great string quartets will go their separate ways after 20 years together on the international concert stage.

The Cypress String Quartet performs its final concert Sunday, June 26 in the Opera Lab at San Francisco’s War Memorial. As the quartet disbands, it leaves a legacy of 17 recordings, the commissioning of more than 30 new works for string quartet and countless acclaimed concerts around the globe.

“It’s a bittersweet experience,” said Cypress Quartet violinist Tom Stone about anticipating the group’s upcoming farewell concert. “We’ve had an incredible twenty years. I’m really looking forward to this last concert, but also sad.”

“I think that we really felt like we wanted to make this last season one of celebration,” Kloetzel said, “and we wanted to go out with a bang, sort of a crescendo to the end.”

If the Cypress Quartet’s exit Sunday will be mighty, its entrance 20 years ago was no less grand. The group formed in 996 with the specific goal of delving deeply into the quartets of Beethoven, a repertory known to strike fear in the hearts of even seasoned quartet players in veteran ensembles. Some said they were crazy when, on Day One of their career, the musicians of the fledgling Cypress Quartet jumped right into Beethoven’s quartets.

“You know, when something doesn’t work out, you call it crazy, and when it does work out, you call it bold,” Stone said. “I’m not sure which it was, but we’ve certainly enjoyed it.”

They’ve also enjoyed the stream of accolades that their recordings of the complete Beethoven quartets and their live performances have garnered from the international musical community. The musicians now look back on those performances as a substantial body of work that shaped them at least as much as they shaped it.

“I think for us they represent a lifetime of work,” Stone said. “As a quartet we’ve been wrestling with these works for 20 years. And it’s like a great book, where you look at it at one point in your life and it means one thing, and you look at later and it starts to mean something different. The book hasn’t changed – you’ve changed.”

Incidentally, “you’ve changed” isn’t what the members of the Cypress Quartet are telling each other. This quartet’s disbanding isn’t an ugly divorce – it’s just a period at the end of a sentence.

“We’ve been so engrossed in this and immersed in this for the past 20 years that all of us sort of reached the point where we decided, Okay, it’s time to try something different. We’re all loving this, but also exhausted and ready for change in our lives.” Stone said.  

“It’s been an incredible run,” Kloetzel said. “We are so proud of both spending time in Beethoven, but also all the education work we’ve done and also the commissions. So hopefully when people look back on this time that we spent together, there are things that they can learn from, or music that was inspired by what we did, which is great.”

As the members of the Cypress Quartet conclude Act One of their careers, determining what Act Two has in store is right now for each of them a work in progress.

“None of us have really thought ahead of what our next step is, except that this summer we’re all going to take a vacation and think about it.”

Separate vacations, that is.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.