Certainly one of the most important British string quartets, the Brodsky Quartet saluted the Istanbul audience with an artfully concocted program. The second half was dedicated to Ravel's chef d’oeuvre in F major. The first half, on the other hand was built on influences on Ravel’s music: the neo-classicism, the growing industrialization and jazz.

Brodsky Quartet © Eric Richmond
Brodsky Quartet
© Eric Richmond

Mexican composer Juan Alvarez’s Metro Chabacano was commissioned for the inauguration of Mexico City’s subway. It is a typical post-minimalist piece featuring the busy everyday life of a metropolitan in the mechanical ostinato part played mainly by the second violin, viola and the cello and the contrasting little melodic theme appearing in the first violin. The texture created is dense yet very thin at the same time, delicate as lace. This was certainly the challenge for the performers who did an incredible job in colour and dynamics.

The second piece was Gershwin’s posthumous Lullaby, which he hadn’t found good enough to be published during his lifetime. The Brodsky blew this rhapsodic lullaby in the ears of the audience as if it was a cosy, happy, calm and warm summer night. This was followed by another Mexican composer’s work, this time the master of Alvarez, Mario Lavista’s Reflejos de la Noche. Again post-minimalistic but this time the scene is set at night. The piece consists almost exclusively of flagellets, thus it is mainly based on overtones. The atmosphere is completely different from Alvarez’s piece. This time one is situated in nature, hearing whistles, birdsongs in the middle of the night instead of in the middle of an industrialized city. I think that the best word to describe Brodsky’s performance, next to colour and delicacy, is precision. The last piece of the first half was Golijov’s Tenebrae: a piece written after witnessing a human suicide bomber in Tel-Aviv and quite shortly after visiting a planetarium with his little boy. It starts as if it was a Baroque aria of Bach or Pergolesi. On the surface one might say that it is joyful but the deeper it gets the more sorrowful it becomes. The Brodsky, as a master of nuances and moods, played it with a heartfelt panache and sorrow.

The second half of the concert was dedicated to Ravel’s monumental String Quartet in F major. In this work Ravel exploits the traditional form to present an extensive array of cyclic thematic derivations. The two principal themes of the sonata-form first movement are clearly the mostly used material for the rest of the work. The first theme is closely related with the slow movement and the finale, the second has important relations with the scherzo. But more importantly, in this concert, every movement was related to the first part of the programme. The percussive, rhythmic effects with reminiscences of Ravel's Hispanic ancestry of the scherzo making allusion to the South American composers, the muted slow part containing the dominant themes corresponding to the lament of Golijov. The Brodsky team certainly has all the gifts of an impeccable quartet such as perfect intonation, rhythmic freedom and yet always together, wonderful tone colour and at the top of all these a lively imagination and sensitive expressiveness.

All four works in the first half were Turkish premières and the Turkish audience was lucky to have the Brodsky Quartet to perform them exquisitely. Brodsky responded to the Turkish public’s warm reception with two arrangements from Manuel de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas-Nana and Jota- by the violist, arranged by quartet’s violist Paul Cassidy. The cellist Jacqueline Thomas enchanted the audience having the solo parts with the graceful support of her fellow musicians.