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CHATTING to Radio 3 presenter Jamie MacDougall yesterday following a monumental performance of Tchaikovsky's last string quartet by the Brodsky Quartet, I expressed puzzlement at the generic title of the Radio 3 series of concerts running this week in the Conservatoire and broadcast live on the network. The series is entitled Tchaikovsky in Miniature.
But there was nothing remotely miniature in Tchaikovsky's Third String Quartet: it's an epic, above all in the emotional territory it covers. It's about death, grief, sorrow, rage, tenderness, and a shattering emotional profundity.
MacDougall explained the title of the series probably reflected the fact it's not about orchestras and symphonies, but about the more intimate nature of chamber music. OK, but yesterday it seemed very close to a misnomer.
Anyone who knows the Brodskys would have been surprised had their performance not been top drawer, penetrating the heart and soul of a work that, like so much of Tchaikovsky's music, has a strong sense of autobiography. The fantastic and deeply moving account of the work by this great group did all of these things.
But, you know, that music drew something very special from these peerless players: they were deep beneath the surface, right in the engine room of the soul of the music. Violist Paul Cassidy and cellist Jacqueline Thomas were as one; the were the pulse of the music. The luminosity of Ian Belton's glorious second violin playing and leader Daniel Rowland's heartbreaking interpretation at once highlighted the tragedy within and the apparently consolatory surface of some of the finale. Though, as ever with Tchaikovsky, that was hollow - the truth lay in the depths of this supreme performance.