The Brodsky Quartet is one of the most prolific string quartets on the scene today. The UK-based ensemble is known for their high-profile collaborations with artists outside of the classical realm, includingDave Brubeck, Björk and Paul McCartney, as well as for their definitive rendition of theShostakovich cycle.
Michael Thomas, Ian Belton, Alex Robertson and Jacqueline Thomas were all students between the ages of 11 and 13 at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester when they founded the Brodsky Quartet, named for Russian violinist and concertmaster of the Hallé Orchestra Adolph Brodsky, for whom Tchaikovsky dedicated his violin concerto. They steadily gained a following in the next decade, studying with members of the Vermeer and Amadeus Quartets and winning prizes in several competitions in the UK. In 1982 the quartet welcomed its first new member, the violist Paul Cassidy, and shortly afterwards they played their London debut. In 1985 they were appointed as the first resident quartet of Cambridge University, a post they would hold for three years. They would later also assume residencies at the Darlington Summer School at Trinity College, London, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and in Barcelona.
Over the next few decades the Brodsky Quartet began amassing a huge catalogue of more than 60 recordings and touring extensively on all six continents, with over 3000 concerts to date. They have performed the complete cycles of many of the top composers for string quartet, includingBeethoven, Tchaikovsky, Britten, Schoenberg, Webern and Bartok. However they are most famous for their interpretation of the Shostakovich cycle, famously performed in 1989 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and recorded in 2012 in celebration of their 40th anniversary.
The Brodsky Quartet has been very active outside of the traditional classical sphere, with notable collaborations in television, jazz and popular music. In 1994 they became the first string quartet to appear on the American “Tonight” show. In 1999 they worked together with Eurovision to perform the Beethoven cycle interspersed with works commissioned by contemporary composers, with each new piece based on one of the Beethoven Quartets. The Brodsky Quartet has commissioned works from many top-tier composers including Morton Feldman, Dave Brubeck and Dmitri Smirnov, and have even made significant inroads into popular music with notable collaborations with Björk, Paul McCartey and rock musician Elvis Costello.
Beginning in 2012 the Brodsky Quartet signed with and has recorded exclusively ever since with Chandos Records. Recent releases includePetits-Fours: Favourite Encores, a compilation of Encore pieces of the quartet released as another celebration of their anniversary,In The South, with works by Italians Verdi, Paganini, Wolf and Puccini, and New World Quartets, featuring works by Dvorakand the American composers Copland, Gershwin and Brubeck. They have also released one of two planned Brahms recordings, featuring guest artist Michael Collins on the Clarinet Quintet.
As they enter their fifth decade the mission of the Brodsky Quartet continues to be one of outreach and innovation. They are one of the few string quartets to achieve a balance between playing works of the great masters and bringing to light newer, often lesser-known contemporary artists. In another demonstration of their forward-thinking mindset and attention to performance practice, they became one of the first quartets to perform standing, presenting a powerful image to match their sophisticated and eclectic repertoire.
Header image courtesy of Kotta Nelkul Other images courtesy of THe Oxford Culture Review and Opera North