Cypress String Quartet The American Album: Music by Dvořák, Griffes, and Barber

The Cypress String Quartet (Cecily Ward, violin; Tom Stone, violin; Ethan Filner, viola; and Jennifer Kloetzel, cello) is pleased to announce the release of its latest recording, The American Album, featuring music inspired by America. The new album will be available from all major retailers on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, through the Cypress’ own label. The American Album includes Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96 (“American”), Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ Two Sketches Based on Indian Themes, and Samuel Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 11.

With The American Album, the Cypress Quartet celebrates these composers’ efforts to define and develop an American sound. Dvořák wrote his String Quartet No. 12, nicknamed the “American,” in Spillville, Iowa in 1893 while visiting a small Czech farming community. Influenced by the music he encountered there, he incorporated Native American and African American themes into the work. Of his time in Spillville, Dvořák later said, “That’s when I was happy.”

Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ Two Sketches is based on two Native American songs. The members of the Cypress String Quartet have done a great deal of research on which songs Griffes used in his concert work. They spoke with an elder of the Chippewa tribe, and found that the first sketch is based on the “Chippewa Farewell Song,” and the second is part of a Hopi festival. Cypress cellist Jennifer Kloetzel explains further, “The farewell song may have been sung by the tribe’s warriors as they walked to war, and then sung by the tribe’s women and children as they walked back to the village from the battlefield.”

It is the second movement of Barber’s String Quartet with which the composer earned his greatest fame. The slow movement, marked Molto adagio, would become Adagio for Strings for orchestra after Barber expanded it for Arturo Toscanini to conduct. Aaron Copland’s belief that Adagio for Strings “comes straight from the heart” applies equally to the string quartet version. In his own words, Barber knew that the movement was “a knockout” as soon as he finished it.

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