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Tchaikovsky String Quartets

Brodsky Quartet Audio CD

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1. Adagio-Moderato Assai
2. Allegro Giusto
3. Andante Ma Non Tanto
4. Allegro Con Moto
5. Andante Sostenuto-Allegro Moderato
6. Allegretto Vivo E Scherzando
7. Andante Funebre E Doloroso, Ma Con Moto
8. Allergo Risoluto

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MANCHESTER RULES OK April 26 2005
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
There was a Brodsky Quartet before this one, back in Tchaikovsky's own day. Adolf Brodsky gave the premiere of Tchaikovsky's concerto, and he eventually settled in Manchester, where the members of the new Brodsky Quartet received their musical education, presumably at the great Royal Northern College of Music, although their web-site does not explicitly say so. England needs a top-class new string quartet now that the Lindsays are retiring, and I'm happy to report that this group seem to be filling the bill admirably. I had become aware of them from the Britten quartets in which they are major contenders, and now here is an excellent disc of the second and third Tchaikovsky works.

The best-known instrumental composers of Tchaikovsky's time, other than Dvorak, were not very prolific with string quartets. There are two from Borodin, Brahms got around to three and Franck, who wrote just one of most things, to just one. In compensation there is a fine and most original effort in the genre from Verdi, and a very interesting if distinctly over-long effort by Wolf. Tchaikovsky felt unsure of himself in this medium. His first production, famous for the hackneyed andante cantabile, is on a fairly small scale, but the remaining two are full-sized specimens, very serious in tone. As usual with this composer, the finales are not the strongest movements. Hanslick was hardly exaggerating when he described the last movement of the violin concerto as 'lamentably trivial Cossack cheer', and it seems to me that even in the symphonies the final movements let their predecessors down until the composer went out (in every possible sense) with the masterpiece that concludes the Pathetique. Nevertheless even here Tchaikovsky keeps himself on a tight rein - there is no temptation to play to the gallery with cheap effects in a string quartet, and there is probably no way either of producing sounds conceived so exclusively for this ensemble that they would be completely meaningless if played on the piano. The other movements, even the two scherzos, are deeply serious in the best sense - thoughtful rather than going in for theatrical tragedy about nothing much as Tchaikovsky was often prone to doing. In particular the andante funebre of the third quartet seems to me to rise to real greatness.

I find myself very impressed indeed by these accounts from the Brodskys. They seem to me to get the idiom right and to get the tone right, the expression strong but not overdone - it does more harm to try to express what isn't there than to miss a bit of what is. The actual playing seems to me exemplary, and I have no difficulty with their interpretation at all. In particular I was thoroughly convinced by the fast, urgent and anxious 'allegretto' in the second movement of the third quartet. Where full-blooded Tchaikovskian emotion is called for in the movement following that it is provided with great power. The recording could probably have been a little warmer in tone, but we have become very pampered in that respect nowadays and I make no real complaint. The liner note is effusive about the music in a fairly conventional idiom, but the section on Brodsky, on Tchaikovsky and on the players themselves, written by their cellist Jacqueline Thomas, is first-class in what it has to say and delightfully written as well.

This is very promising indeed. I take intense pleasure in welcoming these distinguished graduates of the distinguished school where I attend so many superb events. I wish them confidently a long and eminent career, and it may be that we should be starting to look out for the Johnston Quartet as well.
4.0 out of 5 stars Tchaikovsky in sombre mode Sept. 25 2010
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I did not respond to this music on first playing; perhaps I was taken aback my its seriousness and expecting something more akin to the "Souvenir de Florence" sextet, but subsequent listening has reconciled me to its quiet pessimism and permitted me to appreciate many of its beauties. Much here is harmonically avant garde and much more adventurous than one might have expected; this is Tchaikovsky in mostly very sombre mood, working in a musical idiom not entirely typical of him and in a genre in which requires him to scale back his habitual, overtly tragic mode of expression, though I kind of desperation keeps breaking through in his use of ostinato figures. The first "andante cantabile" quartet has always been more popular; indeed many are unaware of that Tchaikovsky wrote two subsequent quartets. This is emphatically not "feel good" music; the andantes in both quartets are the strongest movements and see Tchaikovsky returning to mine that rich vein of melancholy more readily associated with him than the rather more bland allegros and allegrettos of the second and fourth movements. I am not entirely convinced by the composer's attempt to provide some sense of relief or resolution by his perky finales - a problem that persists in symphonies before the Pathétique.

The balance between instruments, warm tone and homogeneity of the Brodsky Quartet are really impressive: their intonation is flawless and they play with just the right compromise between restraint and expressiveness to ensure that Tchaikovsky's lamentation does not tip over into mawkishness.

There is a grave beauty to this music that repays concentrated listening; just don't expect shades of the "Nutcracker".

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