Ahead of their first visit to Saffron Hall in January, we caught up with the Brodsky Quartet to talk swimming in the Copacabana, rejecting traditional chamber music seating and the benefits of great sound.
Tell us about the programme you will be performing with us – what excites you most about these works?
The programme contains two of the most popular quartets ever – the Dvořák ‘American’ inspired by indigenous folk themes and spirituals, and Borodin No.2 with its glorious Nocturno (used by him for the romantic musical Kismet). As appetisers, we have two short gems of the repertoire: Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue manages in just a few minutes of music to plumb the emotional extremes of a full-scale opera, whilst Webern’s romantic outpouring as a young man is all the more poignant when we think of his departure to sparse serialism only a few years later.
For those who haven’t seen you perform before, what makes an evening with the Brodsky Quartet special?
Chamber music has often been unfairly labelled as a specialist genre, less easily understandable than orchestral concerts or opera. We do our best to include the audience in our world and dispel that myth. We like to introduce the works we play because each one of them, whether a well-known classic or a brand new commission, holds insights which can only enhance the enjoyment of the listener. We also open up to the audience by rejecting the traditional seated presentation in favour of standing up (except the cellist who has a podium!) We feel this really helps to communicate our performance and hopefully gives the listener an understanding of how the voices are shared between the four players.
Saffron Hall is a brand new venue, so this will be your first visit. Do you change how you approach your rehearsals when you perform in a venue for the first time?
It’s always exciting to sample a new venue and there is a growing understanding of what makes a great hall, so designers and architects are often getting it very right! We don’t think too much about it till we arrive at the venue and take in the size, layout, ambience. Then we can experiment during the rehearsal with extremes of dynamics, see how far we can push the acoustics.
How important are the acoustics of a venue for musicians?
A great acoustic makes the concert an absolute pleasure – we get no help from amplification in our business, so the hall has to carry the sounds we make. But it’s a very exact science to get it right: too bright and the detail can be lost, too dry and it feels like an up-hill struggle to make a sweet sound. We’re very excited to sample this hall as we’ve already heard some very positive reports…
Where else are you performing during 13-14?
We started the 13-14 season in Rio de Janeiro where we even had time for a swim at Copacabana one day, then went straight to Tromso in the Arctic Circle region of Norway where it was almost time for the sun to disappear for the winter. Quite a contrast! Through the following months we visit France, Italy, Spain, Israel, Serbia, Cyprus, Canada as well as many UK concerts and some exciting recordings for Chandos.
The Brodsky Quartet will perform at Saffron Hall on Saturday 18 January at 7.30pm.