Group History
The ‘70s
FAQ : "Why the name?" Who was Adolf Brodsky??

The quartet is named after the Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky, great friend and champion of Tchaikovsky...
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The Brodsky Quartet started life in the north of England town of Middlesbrough in 1972. Brother and sister Michael and Jacqueline Thomas with friends Ian Belton and Alexander Robertson used to congregate at the Thomas family home after Youth Orchestra on Friday nights, sometimes to play football or table-tennis, sometimes to play quartets.
Their passion for the latter quickly overtook all else and soon, as the Cleveland Quartet, they were entertaining parents and neighbours with little soirees of highly ambitious repertoire for kids of 11 to 13. When they came face to face with the established US-based Cleveland (Ohio) Quartet at Dartington Summer School in 1974 they conceded that perhaps theirs was the lesser claim on the name but delayed choosing a new one. 

Performances progressed to concert halls and competitions, including the winning of the National Festival of Music for Youth which culminated in the first ever Schools’ Prom (now a national institution) in which they performed Shostakovich to over a thousand excited school children in the Royal Albert Hall. In those early days as they discovered Shostakovich who was still relatively obscure, his music not readily available in music shops in the west, they were so keen to play the works that they wrote out their own parts from radio broadcasts of the works' premieres. Whilst becoming the first ever quartet to arrive ready-formed at music college (the RNCM in Manchester) they received the Menuhin Prize for the most promising young group at the first London Quartet Competition (then held in Portsmouth) and changed the name to Brodsky after the great Russian violinist who was such an inspiration on musical life in Manchester in the early 20th century and himself a dedicated quartet player. More competition successes followed including the Janacek Medal and Audience Prize at the Evian competition and their studies continued with the Amadeus and Vermeer Quartets as well as their regular teachers in Manchester, Terence Weil, Eli Goren, Nobuko Imai, Yossi Zivoni and Ralph Kirshbaum.

At this time they had their first taste of travels abroad as they were often chosen to represent the college in exchanges with institutions all over Europe, frequently sponsored by the British Council, including a visiting scholarship to the Prague Conservatory to study with Milan Skampa. 

 The ‘80s

In 1982 Robertson left the group to pursue other interests and was replaced by violist Paul Cassidy, recently graduated from the RCM in London where he too had developed a passion for string quartets. At this point the group had signed with their first International agent and their Wigmore Hall debut that same year to great critical acclaim put them firmly on the map. In the next months they won First Prize at the EBU Competition and six of the seven prizeson offer at the Tokyo Competition, and took up a scholarship to study with Zoltan Sekely in Banff, Canada.

In the same year the quartet was invited to perform for Benjamin Britten’s Memorial Concert and later for the 80th birthday of Sir Peter Pears at the Aldeburgh Festival and Wigmore Hall, where they were Resident Young Artists. On leaving Manchester they held residencies in Sutton Place, Surrey, for South-East Arts,  Dartington International Summer School (which lasted 14 years) and later became the first quartet to hold a residency at Cambridge University (for three years) generously sponsored by Patrick Fahey Associates. They also worked closely with composers Harrison Birtwhistle, Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr and Witold Lutoslawski, the latter exclaiming aloud and tearfully, following a performance of his String Quartet at Dartington, "It's theirs!".

Their first recording, in 1984, held particular poignancy as it contained Elgar’s String Quartet, dedicated by the composer to the original Brodsky Quartet of the early 20th century. They soon added to their discography through contracts with ASV, IMP and Teldec, for whom they recorded the complete Shostakovich Quartets in 1989, (winning the Deutsche Schalplatten Preis and named Record of the Year by Music Week Magazine) in tandem with their performances of all those great works at London’s QEH for the Music from the Flames series, and went on to an award winning recording output from Schubert, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky to Crumb and a light-hearted encore album, Brodsky Unlimited

During this time the quartet had been travelling all over the world and gaining a reputation as one of the leaders in their field, working with many great musicians including Maria Joao Pires, Nobuko Imai, Christian Blackshaw, Barry Douglas, Peter Donahoe, Alexander Baillie, and performing complete cycles of the Schubert, Bartok, Schoenberg, Janacek, Zemlinsky quartets as well as many specially commissioned new works and of course all the classical and romantic era masterpieces their huge repertoire has to offer.

In 1985 they struck up a working relationship with the Japanese designer Issey Miyake who provided them with innovative and unique concert attire, breaking the mold of accepted uniform for musicians, criticised in some quarters but eventually emulated in many. With the emphasis firmly on comfort, practicality and style, Miyake came up with a beautifully modern classic. In a refreshing break from their normal schedule, the quartet took to the cat-walk, playing live for his Men's Show in Paris,1986.

The ‘90s

In 1992, still only in their early 30s, they celebrated their 20th anniversary with a series at London's QEH and their own charity festival for Save the Children and Children in Need, in a little church in a backwater of Maida Vale, London, inviting artists such as Barry Douglas, Evelynn Glennie, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, John Amis and many more.The final concert was the world premiere of a 'Work in Progress' with Elvis Costello whom they had recently met, resulting in the joint writing and recording of the ground-breaking work The Juliet Letters, a song cycle for quartet and voice, which has become an icon of cross-genre output.

The subsequent world tour, documentary and record-breaking cd sales gathered a huge fan base for the album, which endures to this day, as well as the coveted Edison Award. It was re-released for the 15th Anniversary in 2007 with the addition of bonus tracks of encores from the original tour. The long-standing friendship and working relationship with Elvis has continued to play an important part in the quartet’s continued tour schedule, as well as collaborations with other leading figures from 'across the divide', including Björk and Paul McCartney, performing with the latter at St James' Palace in the presence of Prince Charles, in London and New York for the Standing Stone concert and later for the Memorial Concert of Linda McCartney.

At this time the quartet decided to experiment with a long-standing urge to perform standing, unlike all other groups at the time. After the first attempt they never looked back, released from the constraints of chairs and the resulting back-ache, inspired to project to the audience in a spirit of inclusion, breaking away from the illusion that chamber music is an elitist artform.

Extensive touring continued and recordings were made under the Silva Classics label, including Haydn and Mozart, Weill and Brubeck, who was commissioned to write his only quartet for the Brodskys, and the best-selling Lament compilation CD. They also took part in the "Perfect Day" best-selling single for BBC Children in Need. In 1994, the quartet were given sole use of their own working studio and office at Delfina Studios in Bermondsey, London, under the Patronage of Delfina Entrecanales who has remained a lifelong friend and supporter of the group, helping them to set up the Foundation, sponsoring concerts and helping with the purchase of instruments. This favourable working environment, an unusual luxury for a string quartet, afforded them the opportunity to employ their own personal manager, Marjon Koenekoop, who became a much-valued 'fifth member' of the group for many years.

Throughout this busy schedule, the quartet always sought to invest time and imagination in the exploration of their rich repertoire and to break with the accepted norms in concert presentation. They were rewarded in 1998 with a Royal Philharmonic Society Award in recognition of their innovative programming, and an Honorary Fellowship at the University of Teesside, where the quartet had its roots.

The ’00s

In 1999, Michael Thomas left the group to settle in Seville with his Spanish wife and children and to pursue his conducting career, to be replaced by Andrew Haveron, a graduate of the RCM under Felix Andraevsky.  Faced with the enormous task of relearning the huge repertoire, Andrew’s enthusiasm was an inspiration – he even introduced many new works which had so far eluded the quartet, including the stylistically ebullient output of the European/American émigré school, Kreisler, Korngold and co. Recording output gathered pace with Vanguard Classics (later Challenge): in 2000 they released Beethoven’s Opus 18 quartets, a special project for the Millenium in which six composers were commissioned to write new works in homage to the Beethoven set of exactly 200 years earlier; then followed the Second Viennese Cycle, Respighi, Sculthorpe and later, under their own label Brodsky Records, Beethoven op.59s, Janacek, Tchaikovsky and Britten complete sets, winning awards Diapason d'Or, CHOC du Monde de la Musique and many others.

They also continued to work with many diverse artists from all genres with whom they have devised exciting and innovative projects: Sting, Elvis Costello, Ron Sexsmith, Amanda Roocroft and Barbara Bonney for the opera Welcome to the Voice by Steve Neive (premiered in New York Town Hall and recorded for Deutsche Gramophon); Theatre du Complicite for their project The Noise of Time based on the life and works of Shostakovich; Brian Friel, Lou Stein, with actors Henry Goodman and Rosamund Pike for Performances, a theatre piece for actors and string quartet based on the 2nd Janacek quartet; Julian Nott, Sjon and actor John Telfer for Anna and the Moods, a children’s work for narrator and string quartet; Björk for a specially commissioned work by John Taverner, Prayer of the Heart; further performances and recordings with Joan Enric Lluna, Michael Collins, Dmitri Ashkenazy, Christian Blackshaw, Martin Roscoe, Alexander Baillie, Anne-Sofie von Otter, Diana Baroni, Jacqui Dankworth and Björk, including the now legendary Union Chapel acoustic concerts, some of which features on her album Family Tree.
'Gotham Lullaby', Union Chapel on youtube
'Prayer of the Heart' on youtube

In 2003 the quartet devised and realised an educational project aimed at teenagers with the support of the Arts Council and NESTA. This work took them, with a team of composers, writers, artists and musicians, to schools all over the UK where they motivated hundreds of youngsters to write songs for quartet and voice, many of which contributed to the album Moodswings which came out of the project. The format has been repeated in other countries, including Holland and Iceland, with a lasting legacy of many students taking up musical training who might never have done so.

Whilst continuing their travels around the world the quartet had also established residencies in several concert halls to which they returned repeatedly, namely L'Auditori, Barcelona; Palau de la Musica, Valencia; Auditorio National, Madrid; Concertgebouw, Amsterdam; Vredenburg, Utrecht; Teatro Communale, Bologna; Brisbane Powerhouse; Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh; St George's, Bristol; and Gulbenkian, University of Kent, Canterbury where they were awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2004.

In 2007, Andrew left the group to take up the post of Leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and was replaced by Daniel Rowland, highly respected and established chamber musician and soloist. Following Daniel’s enthusiastic arrival and whole-hearted embracing of the quartet’s work ethic and ideal, they began a five-year exclusive residency at London’s Cadogan Hall where they devised many interesting programmes, a highlight being a series called ‘Close To You’, a tribute to the great Hollywood Quartet, emulating their iconic recordings of Beethoven, Brahms and Schoenberg, as well as their famous collaboration with Frank Sinatra, for which the wonderful Sir Willard White joined the Brodskys. They also began a three-year visiting residency as ‘International Chair of Chamber Music’ at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. This led to many openings into the venues and halls of that great city, not least the wonderful Town Hall where they gave the first of their famous complete-Shostakovich-in-a-weekend cycles, which have since been performed world-wide from the north of Norway to the south of Australia and many places in between.

Whilst continuing to tour and record standard repertoire, they also collaborated on several interesting theatrical ventures, including Brian Friel’s play Performances, with Rosamund Pike and Henry Goodman at Wilton’s Music Hall, London; a music-theatre inspired clarinet quintet, In Memoriam, by Paul Barker with Joan Enric Lluna; and their children’s show ‘A Young Person’s Guide to the String Quartet’ with ‘Anna and the Moods’, their 21st century Peter and the Wolf, with the help of human-dynamo and actor John Telfer as narrator and be-wigged Joseph Haydn.

The ’10s

The quartet’s 40th anniversary year was full of exciting opportunities for celebration, top of the list being a return to the Shostakovich Weekend at the newly opened and fabulous King’s Place, London, leading to an invitation to become Quartet in Residence there. Also in that year, the quartet presented at Kings Place and throughout Europe a concert called the ‘Wheel of 4tunes’, in which a huge wheel containing 40 string quartets was spun four times by audience members to ‘select’ a programme - fun but extremely stressful! Each year since at Kings Place has afforded great opportunities for curating and performing in adventurous series, not least the brilliant Chamber Music Unwrapped Top 50 chamber works as voted by the public, centenary celebrations for Benjamin Britten and Andrej Panufnik, and the Zemlinsky Immersion Day.

In 2013 the City of London Festival and Derry-Londonderry City of Culture commissioned a work for the quartet and mezzo soprano Lore Lixenberg, to be written by nine composers and eight poets and performed across Europe ending in Jerusalem, following the idea of a modern-day Winterreise. “Trees, Walls and Cities” is a celebration of cross-boundary unity, the futility of division and a life-affirming journey of humanity. Also for the City of Culture celebrations, the quartet re-visited the Brian Friel play in his home town, Derry, this time with Alan Corduna and director Adrian Dunbar.

In 2015 the quartet made a long-awaited return trip to New Zealand, touring both islands from top to bottom under the excellent care of CMNZ.

Education work continues with masterclasses in conservatoires across the world; London’s Trinity and RCM, Menuhin and Purcell Schools, Manchester’s RNCM, Birmingham and Glasgow conservatoires, Pro Corda, Durham University, the Australian Academy in Melbourne (ANAM), Mexico’s Instrumenta and classes in Cyprus, Serbia, Hungary, Holland, Norway, Switzerland and Brazil.

Continuing collaborations with composers Osvaldo Golijov, Theo Verbey, Robin de Raaff, Isidora Zebeljan, Roxanna Panufnik, Andrea Tarrodi and Ryota Komatsu, as well as fellow performers Michael Collins, Natalie Clein, Martin Roscoe, Natacha Kudritskaya, Dawn Upshaw, Lore Lixenberg, Jacqui Dankworth, Charlie Woods, Sir Willard White, David Hansen, Eddie Perfect and Topology have made for a very exciting half-decade so far.

The icing on the cake of this fifth decade has been the exciting teaming together with Chandos Records, with whom the quartet have already released eight albums, starting with the celebratory Petits Fours - encores for the 40th birthday - and encompassing every era of their rich repertoire.