The Cypress String Quartet (Cecily Ward, violin; Tom Stone, violin; Ethan Filner, viola; and Jennifer Kloetzel, cello) announces the commercial release of How She Danced: String Quartets of Elena Ruehr on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. The album, which includes Elena Ruehr’s String Quartets No. 1 (1991), No. 3 (2001), and No. 4 (commissioned by the Cypress Quartet in 2005), will be available on iTunes, CDBaby.com, Amazon.com, and other major retailers. The disc was produced by Cypress first violinist Cecily Ward and Mark Willsher, and recorded at Skywalker Sound.
The album’s release coincides with the world premiere of another string quartet commissioned by the Cypress Quartet from Ms. Ruehr, which is based on Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto. The premiere performance will take place on Friday, February 26 at 8pm at Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA). A second performance will take place on Sunday, February 28 at 3pm as part of the Montalvo Arts Center’s Villa Chamber Music Series (15400 Montalvo Rd., Saratoga, CA).
Known for their elegant performances, the Cypress’s sound has been called “beautifully proportioned and powerful” by The Washington Post, and the ensemble has been singled out by Chamber Music Magazine as “a Generation X ensemble to watch.” This disc follows the success of the ensemble’s recent recording of Beethoven’s Late Quartets Op. 131 and 135, which Gramophone magazine praised as “revealing artistry of uncommon insight and cohesion.”
Elena Ruehr has been called a “composer to watch” by Opera News, and her music has been described as “stunning . . . beautifully lighted by [a] canny instinct for knowing when and how to vary key, timbre, and harmony” by The Boston Globe.
The Cypress Quartet came to know Ms. Ruehr’s music through a blind listening process. Each year, the ensemble commissions a number of new works for string quartet, and selects composers based solely on whose music speaks to all four of them. Over just a decade, the Cypress has commissioned and premiered more than 30 new works, four of which are now included on Chamber Music America’s list of 101 Great American Ensemble Works.
Of the music included on How She Danced, Ms. Ruehr said, “The three quartets here span about 15 years of my work. Each is quite different and reflects my interests, which include opera, poetry, and literature. I treat the instruments either as voices or as drums, with long lyrical lines and a dance-like sense of rhythmic drive. In addition, the quartets all specifically refer to older music, ancient and traditional source, from folk songs to specific classical repertoire.”
Cecily Ward describes their relationship as simpatico. “Elena has described a credo she has had since her 20s: ‘The surface is simple, but the structure is complex,’” she said. “That’s probably why we get along; it’s what our quartet does!”