If anyone is any doubt that live music is far better than recorded sound, tonight’s performance by the Brodsky proved the point. The clarity and perfection of their interpretation of the Shostakovich String Quartet No. 2 in A Op. 68 was not just an ear opener for those familiar with this complex work but an ideal introduction for those new to this composer.
Before setting out their virtuosic stall for a piece that only Shostakovich could have conceived, the Brodsky gave a vibrant and stimulating account of the Borodin Scherzo in D dance theme which quickly evolved into a crisp conversation between four masterly musicians. Excitement built up throughout and kept the audience on edge before a calm interlude with a soft and fluent central section was prelude to a brilliant finale.
But returning to the main work before the interval, one had to admire the quartet’s skill and obvious enjoyment in producing a cacophony of controlled sound which only Shostakovitch could have conceived. As viola player, Paul Cassidy, claimed, one could hear "all the bells of Moscow ringing at once". Essentially Russian and full of angst, the piece moved through many changes of mood and colour to a calm reflection on political life in Leningrad.
A magical and ghostly, muted performance, led the third movement to spirited and complex harmonics, unfortunately interrupted by a broken string which gave space for first violin Daniel Rowland an opportunity to tell more about the context and the composer. Finally, echoes of Russia picked out on the individual instruments led us to understand better the traditions and influences which guided this complex composition.
The climax of the piece bounced sound between the players until together they achieved a rich and exuberant climax to a complex but highly enjoyable work. Then all players and audience had a well earned interval.
As a complete contrast, Schubert’s String Quartet Death and the Maiden was to many a welcome refreshment after the rigours of the first half. This very popular piece, always a delight, was played with precision and virtuosity by a deeply experienced group. The melodic themes and dramatic contrasts interplayed with imaginative and enjoyable sounds.
It is difficult with the Brodsky to single out individuals for particular praise, they are so well integrated. The programme highlighted that the scherzo had been described as "the dance of the demon fiddler" which closely resembled our lead violinist. But the rich tones and sonority of the cello held my attention and the clarity of the viola part will remain in the memory.
All in all a great performance and one which provided a notable finish to a very successful CCC Season in Chichester. Long may we hear live music in our city!