A triumphant return for the Brodsky
This is amazingly the 50th season for the Brodsky Quartet who returned triumphant to the King’s Hall on Wednesday for the opening of the Ilkley Concert Club’s 76th season. Ian Belton (violin) and Jacky Thomas (cello) are the founder members, playing with their long-time colleague Paul Cassidy (viola) and now with Krysia Osostowicz, founder of the Dante Quartet, as their first violin.
Their programme opened with Cassidy’s arrangement for quartet of the Bach solo violin sonata in C major – this broadening of what is possible on a single instrument into four parts took a little getting used to. The wonder that a violin could play so many notes has gone but is replaced by a greater clarity in the counterpoint, when heard on different instruments. The Brodsky gave a committed performance, moving in the slow movements and with appropriate brio in the fugue and the closing allegro.
However the emotional heart of the first half lay in the performance of Shostakovich’s eighth quartet in C minor, an immensely personal work making extensive use of his motto theme – D E flat C B (D S C H in German notation). All the quartet’s artistry and experience were laid at the service of this astonishing music with its mercurial contrasts – jagged rhythms contrasting with smooth legatos – given rapt attention by a packed hall. The silence at the end seemed to be held for ever before the audience broke into tumultuous applause!
The second half of the concert returned to C major with Schubert’s last great work, his string quintet. For this the Brodsky were joined by the leading young cellist, Laura van der Heijden, with whom they have recently recorded this masterwork. Her darker, slightly more aggressive style of playing contrasted nicely with that of her fellow cellist, Jacky Thomas, at times while blending beautifully at others. The highlight of the performance was the slow second movement where the crisp pizzicati of Krysia and Laura contrasted with the elegiac legato of the other strings. As always the interplay between the parts was nicely judged and the whole performance was immensely satisfying, providing an accomplished finish to a memorable first concert.