The Brodsky Quartet, L-R: Ian Belton, Gina McCormack, Paul Cassidy and Jacqueline Thomas.Credit:Duncan Matthews

Brodsky Quartet: The Art of Fugue ★★★★½
Melbourne Recital Centre, May 6

With more than 45 years of experience and thousands of concerts to their name, the British-based Brodsky Quartet is one of the most established and respected of chamber groups.

While concertgoers no doubt came to hear the quality that comes from such a long-term partnership, they were also among the first to witness the beginning of a new chapter for this famous foursome as their Australian tour coincided with the appointment of a new first violin, Gina McCormack.

a performance that seemed boundless in possibility

While McCormack is already a highly respected talent, you might expect the introduction of a new member to take time to settle in. If that was the case, it certainly wasn’t showing.

In a selection of music that explored that most technical of structures, the fugue, the Brodskys showcased every nuance of their extraordinary skills. From their individual prowess to their near-telepathic sense of ensemble and their chameleonesque ability to inhabit the sound-world of any period, this was a performance that seemed boundless in possibility.

The fugal thesis underpinning this program, while perhaps a touch too academic, made for a fearless display. From Bach’s The Art of Fugue via two examples by Mozart and Mendelssohn, and on to arguably the zenith of the form, Beethoven’s mercilessly complex Grosse Fuge, the Brodskys effortlessly carved through a dense jungle of counterpoint.

But it was the more stripped back, though no less affecting, textures of Shostakovich’s profoundly moving eighth quartet – the composer’s ode to the brutality and futility of war – that fully revealed why this quartet is considered one of the world’s best.

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