Brodsky Quartet: Celebrating 50 Years – St George’s Hall, Liverpool

The Brodsky Quartet are currently celebrating their fiftieth anniversary, and this concert was a recognition of that milestone in the beautiful setting of St George’s Hall Concert Room. The quartet played a selection of string music featuring both for reflective and joyful themes.

The concert opened with Bach’s Solo Violin Sonata in G minor, arranged for quartet by violist Paul Cassidy. The opening bars of the first movement have a haunting feeling which evoke a feeling of nostalgia on theme for the event. A change in tempo leads to a brighter tone with some pizzicato maintaining a haunted and reflective feeling. There is a defiance in the drama of the piece with the second movement being melancholy and the final movement’s much quicker tempo feeling rebellious. Regular eye contact among the quartet underlined their close relationship and synchronicity as a group.

Following the first piece cellist, Jacqueline Thomas explained the history of the quartet beginning with her and fellow founding member violinist, Ian Belton starting the group in Middlesbrough in 1972. As well as classical and chamber music, the group are influenced by folk which allows their repertoire to be extensive and explore different types of music. She explained that Bach’s violin solo is extremely difficult to play as a soloist and this formed part of the inspiration behind Cassidy arranging the piece for the group to play together.

The second piece was Sarasate’s Playera, arranged by Cassidy. Heavy Spanish themes and a mysterious tone allow this piece to rapidly build up to a beautiful and special ending.

Belton, Cassidy and Thomas were all dressed in classic black, however violinist, Krysia Osostowicz had accompanied her outfit with yellow and blue in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The quartet dedicated their performance of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No.4 to the people of Ukraine in view of the current conflict and Shostakovich’s original inspiration stemming from persecution of Jewish people.

Photo: Sarah Cresswell

The first movement of the piece has a sense of hope and new beginnings, but there is a fear within the depths of the music which leads to the reflective second movement with a sense of regret and loss. There is however defiance within this grief, and it is easy to see why this is the piece the quartet chose to dedicate to the Ukrainian conflict. The layers of the piece are bewildering and the folk heavy third movement has a quick tempo which underlines determination and evokes feelings of beguiling dances or determined battles. The victorious elements make the piece particularly emotional and rousing, leaving feelings high as the interval arrives.

Following the interval, the quartet performed Shostakovich’s Polka, arranged by Thomas. This was a lot of fun, as polkas always are, and easily transported the audience to a busy and merry bar environment.

This was followed by the sophisticated and soothing Ravel’s String Quartet. Intricate layers in the piece produced a dramatic first movement and a high tempo second movement with a funky feeling with heavy pizzicato creating a Spanish feeling influenced by Ravel’s ancestry. A reflective and meditative tone leads into a dramatic final movement with high drama which stirred the audience.

The final piece was, as Osostowicz’s pointed out, designed to be more calming after the stirring feeling of the preceding piece. An elegy by Shostakovich, arranged by Thomas, this soothing short piece was a lovely end to the evening.

The Brodsky Quartet are clearly close knit and in sync following five decades of performing together and building an interesting and varied repertoire. You could not find fault with either the performances or original arrangements produced by individual members. The beautiful setting enhanced the performance, and this was a special evening of music with a quartet who deserve to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in style.

You can find out more about the Brodsky Quartet on their website https://www.brodskyquartet.co.uk/  

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 14th March 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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