Monday, May 20
Britain’s long-running Brodsky Quartet (formed in 1972 and still with two original members) are known for their regular touring (including at least four visits to New Zealand) and their crossover pop collaborations (Elvis Costello, Bjork, Paul McCartney) as well as their refined chamber work – including a fondness for the string-quartet pieces from many of the classical-music heavyweights: Beethoven, Schubert, Shostakovich and Haydn.
Those particular names weren’t on the run-sheet for Wellington as for this visit the Brodsky alternated a set of Fugues (Bach, Bartók and Beethoven) with an evening dubbed “Rhythm and Texture”. I’m glad to have experienced this latter program – including work from Mexico (Lavista and Alvarez) a rarity from Gershwin (his sublime Lullaby which was only published after his death – he was paranoid about his standing within classical music communities) and then the “big” work for the night, the second half’s Ravel masterpiece, ‘String Quartet in F’.
The Brodsky Quartet plays quietly, softly, with precision and yet so much passion. It’s a revelation to watch the four members – each with their own skill of course, but their own style and presentation. That it combines so thrillingly to make the magic of the music as translated from page to stage is the careful, wondrous knitting of their modern chamber crafting.
Gina McCormack (violin) swayed without ever taking a step. Her posture, her poise, the perfect translation of the lines she threaded through the story of the evening. Ian Belton, stoic, a founding member there for the music forever. Paul Cassidy (viola) gave slight jigs as he and Belton nodded to one another through the Mexican numbers – Cassidy also gave us the song intros as required. Jacqueline Thomas (cello, also a founding member) was mesmerising in her deep focus – often she provided the ‘rhythm’ aspect alone as her sawed basslines created the framework for the ‘dance’ of various textures from viola and violin.
Memorably, Mario Lavista’s ‘Reflections of the Night’ saw the quartet working only with natural harmonics rather than actual notes.
All of this set up the clever twist of hearing the Ravel to conclude. Not only is it a much-loved, oft-played piece, here it cemented the very idea of both rhythm and texture as crucial elements to make music move, to make it dance, come alive. Also, hearing it after the more modern pieces in the first half showed its enduring influence.
Seeing Brodsky Quartet live (my first time, finally!) was a quiet thrill. So lovely. So perfect.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron