Today the Cypress String Quartet (CSQ) announced plans for their fourteenth annual Call & Response concert, which will take place in April. The project is a major community outreach effort involving Bay Area public school systems, whose participating students then have the opportunity to attend the concert itself free of charge under scholarship. This year the project as been awarded a $15,000 grand from the National Endowment for the Arts. Those funds will support the commissioning of a new composition whose composer is invited to “respond” to the “call” of works from the repertoire for string quartet. This year the “responding” artist will be the American Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon, who had composed “Impressions” for the 2003 Call & Response program.
In 2010 the “rules” were varied slightly for a program that was entitled Lyrical Music Inspired by Literature. The program featured two string quartets inspired by poetry, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 575 in D major, in which he incorporated his previous setting of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem, “The Violet,” and Franz Schubert’s D. 810 in D minor, which did the same with that composer’s setting of Matthias Claudius’ poem “Death and the Maiden.” The new work was written by Elena Ruehr and was a “response” to ten episodes from Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto.
This year’s program will again be inspired by literature, but this time with a sharper focus on poetry. Higdon’s composition, “In the Shadow of Sirius,” will be a setting of poems by the former American Poet Laureate, W. S. Merwin. For its performance CSQ will be joined by the soprano Christine Brandes. This time, however, Higdon’s score will be a “response” to the other two compositions that will be performed prior to her own, another Schubert quartet, D. 804 in A minor, whose second movement is based on a theme that originally appeared in the music from the third entr’acte of the drama Rosamunde (D. 797), and the composition from which CSQ takes its name, the string quartet version of Antonín Dvořák's cycle of Czech love songs that he called Cypresses.
This year’s Call & Response Concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 19, at Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness Avenue). A pre-concert talk with Higdon will begin at 7:15 p.m. Tickets will be available for $40 at the door and for $35 if purchased in advance. Students will be admitted for $20, which is also the price of tickets purchased for groups of eight or more. Sales will begin on February 1, at which time a hyperlink will be added to the CALL & RESPONSE Web page on the CSQ Web site for online purchase.