Over such a long period one would expect the occasional change of personnel but, remarkably, Ian Belton violin and Jacqueline Thomas cello have been with the quartet from the beginning. Paul Cassidy viola joined the group in 1982. The leader’s chair has seen rather more activity with Gina McCormack violin being the fourth occupant of the seat. She completes the set-up for the Kings Place recording of Mozart’s Prussia Quartets that you are about to hear. But sadly, since this recording was made last October, Gina has had to leave the Brodsky due to her husband’s illness. Fortunately she has been replaced by Krysia Osostowicz who members will remember as a founder member of the Dante Quartet.
Over the years the Brodsky have undertaken numerous performances of the complete cycles of quartets by Schubert, Beethoven. Tchaikovsky, Britten, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky, Webern and Bartok. Their complete Shostakovich cycle in London in 2012 resulted in their taking the prestigious title ‘Artistic Associate’ at London’s Kings Place. Four years later they made their second recording of the cycle, this time live from the Muziekebouw, Amsterdam.
The Brodsky have always had a busy recording career and currently enjoy an exclusive relationship with Chandos. For their 40th Anniversary they released a celebratory album of ‘Encore’ pieces under the title ‘Petits Fours’. ‘In the South’, a CD featuring works by Verdi, Paganini, Wolf and Puccini was also released around this time as well as a disc of New World Quartets by Dvorak, Copland, Gershwin and Brubeck. The latter was a specially commissioned work by the quartet, the only string quartet Brubeck ever composed. For the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Beethoven the Brodsky released a highly acclaimed box set of the late quartets.
Throughout their career the Brodsky’s energy and craftsmanship have attracted numerous awards and accolades worldwide. For recordings they have received the Diapason D’Or and the CHOC du Monde de la Musique. They have also received a Royal Philharmonic Society Award for their outstanding contribution to innovation in programming.
In the field of education the Brodsky have taught at many international chamber music courses. They have held residences in several music institutes including, at the start of their career, the first such post at the University of Cambridge, and latterly at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where they are visiting International Fellows in Chamber Music. They were awarded Honorary Doctorates by the University of Kent and an Honorary Fellowship at the University of Teesside where they were founded.
As well as partnering many classical artists the quartet have made musical history with ground-breaking collaborations with some of the world’s leading artists across many genres. They have commissioned works and championed many of our leading composers and have worked closely with the ‘Manchester School’ i.e. Birtwistle, Maxwell Davies and Goehr. After a performance of Lutoslawski’s String Quartet the latter was heard to exclaim tearfully, ‘it’s theirs!’
One of the Brodsky’s more unusual collaborations was struck up in 1985 with Japanese designer Issey Miyake who provided the quartet with innovative concert attire, with the emphasis on comfort, practicality and style. The quartet took to the catwalk playing ‘live’ for Miyake’s Men’s Show in Paris the following year.
In the early nineties the Brodsky demonstrated their versatility and broad musical interests again, this time collaborating with Punk musician Elvis Costello, jointly writing and recording the ground-breaking work The Juliet Letters, a song cycle for quartet and voice. They have worked with other leading figures from the world of pop, including Sting, Björk and Sir Paul McCartney, performing with the latter at St James’s Palace in the presence of HRH Prince Charles. The Brodsky also took part in the Perfect Day best-selling single for Children in Need.
During their 40th Anniversary year the quartet presented a concert called Wheels of 4tunes in which a huge wheel containing 40 string quartets was spun 4 times by audience members to ‘select’ a programme. Fun but apparently extremely stressful! One wonders how on earth they will top that for their 50th Anniversary next year??