Brodsky Quartet at 50: Life is an adventure

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The Brodsky Quartet is celebrating 50 years of pioneering music making that spans genres from Beethoven to Björk and beyond. Amanda Holloway catches up with the four musicians during their anniversary tour

The 50th anniversary of a quartet conjures up visions of whiskery old men in suits solemnly delivering the greats of the quartet canon. But here is the eternally youthful Brodsky Quartet. Bathed in golden light, two women in chic designer clothes bookend the ensemble, while two men, trim and tailored, form its central energy. They could be at Snape Maltings or headlining at the Latitude Festival. It’s hard to believe they are celebrating a half-century, but the original line-up were not even teenagers when they formed the quartet in Middlesbrough in 1972 – in fact cellist Jacqueline Thomas was only ten.

The rest of the group consisted of her brother Michael (first violin), Ian Belton (second violin) and Alexander Robertson (viola). Initially they called themselves the Cleveland Quartet, after their local county, until 1979 when they changed their name to Brodsky. They were students at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester, at the time, and they chose the new name in honour of the great Russian violinist Adolph Brodsky, a huge figure in the city in the early 20th century. ‘This was because we’d come face to face with the Cleveland (Ohio) Quartet while studying in Dartington in 1974,’ says Jacqueline Thomas, ‘and we felt it was our place to change, not theirs – they were grown-up and fully established! It took another five years to make the change, though, because there was no urgency, until we were to enter the newly created Portsmouth Competition. Then we knew we couldn’t be the Cleveland Quartet any longer.’…

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