Review: Brodsky's rescue act makes for a welcome return to Leamington

The Brodsky Quartet
The Brodsky Quartet

Clive Peacock reviews the Brodsky Quartet at the Pump Room, Leamington

From the opening Bach excerpts from The Art of Fugue dovetailing with Mendelssohn’s Fugue from Four Pieces, to the vividly colourful, mood changing Shostakovich Quartet No 12, there was seldom a dull moment at the Brodsky Quartet’s very, very welcome return to the Pump Room. In March last year their exuberant playing of Schubert’s energy sapping quartet in D minor D810 exhausted both audience and players. This time they rescued an event, replacing the Atrium Quartet at short notice, and agreeing to fulfil an Atrium commitment to play the Shostakovich – a rehearsal for this weekend when they play the cycle of all 15 Shostakovich quartets at a festival in Groningen!

The Shostakovich poses few difficulties for Brodsky, they delight in pizzicato playing, they attack with ferocity when required, and occasionally, the elegant cello playing does overwhelm the viola and second violin. However, the twelve-tone tune and bits of Beethoven resulted in masterful composing and masterful playing.

Beethoven dominated the second half of Brodsky’s rescue effort with the five movements of his Quartet in A minor Op 132, a mind-boggling modern piece for its time. As leader, Daniel Rowland remarked, “at the time this was music for a later age”. The slow movement molto adagio is ‘holy music’ and requires great patience on behalf of both players and audience. This is a draining movement in every sense, composed at a time of illness; fortunately the work gathers strength and ends with a sense of freedom and triumph over adversity. Well done Brodsky for the rescue.

* The concert took place on January 26. Visit for details of future concerts.