Cypress Quartet breathes new life into classics

Nearly nine years after their Chautauqua debut in August 2005, the Cypress String Quartet makes a return to the Institution at 4:15 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

Composed of violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, the group has maintained a remarkable level of continuity since its inception in 1996.

“It’s like with any hopefully good relationship that lasts this long,” Kloetzel said. “When one of us makes the smallest adjustment in the most minute way, we all notice it. It’s also given us the freedom to explore our music with each other; we’re long past any unfamiliarity with everyone’s style.”

The Cypress Quartet — named for Antonín Dvořák’s composition of the same title — has used its longevity to establish a wide-ranging repertoire that Kloetzel describes as “a broad look over more than 100 years of string quartets and famous composers at all stages of their careers.”

With a discography featuring the likes of Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, and, yes, Dvořák, it should come as no surprise that their program this afternoon reads like a who’s-who of classical music.

The program will begin with Samuel Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 11 followed by Quartettsatz in C Minor, D. 703 by Schubert. After an intermission, Dvořák’s String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 51, will close out the performance.

The Barber piece is a particular favorite of Kloetzel in that it contains music with which most concertgoers are familiar; they just don’t know where it came from.

Barber’s Op. 11 contains three movements, the second of which was the origin point for his “Adagio for Strings,” his most famous work; one Kloetzel argues is the most recognized American symphony of all time.

“When people listen to it, they’re so struck that it’s surrounded by other movements; it was was just part of one of his quartets at the beginning,” Kloetzel said. “They aren’t expecting the music to go from something likely unfamiliar to them to one where it’s like ‘Oh, I know this one.’ ”

The Cypress Quartet takes pride in performing and exploring music from composers in their 20s to their 70s, through evolutions of the entire world and those contained to a single body.

Eighteen is a large number when it comes to chamber music, regardless of whether it refers to the number of musicians (like the chamber orchestra A Far Cry last week) or years spent together.

There’s no boredom or staleness when it comes to these four, though. Rather, they take pride in their ability to constantly evolve and match the waves ridden by the composers they cherish.

“Someone once told us we make old music sound new and new music sound known,” Kloetzel said. “We’ve always held that compliment close. With how many seasons we’ve played, it almost feels like time travel.”