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Interview with Daniel Rowland/Brodsky Quartet

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Great, thanks! Right now I’m on a bus in Poland, travelling from Wroclaw to Torun. I’m here as the soloist with  the Youth Orchestra Holland, performing the Tchaikowsky Concerto with my friend Jurjen Hempel conducting. We were in Germany, now some Polish concerts and then after a few more Dutch dates we end at the ever-gorgeous Concertgebouw in Amsterdam

What’s on your schedule at the moment?
Well... I have to say that it’s rather hectic... maybe somewhat overloaded. I spent the first 2 weeks of July in South Africa, at a wonderful festival in Stellenbosch (close to Cape Town in the beautiful winelands), where I played lots of chamber music with friends such as Eugene Osadchy and Peter Martens, cello, Luis Magalhaes, piano and Abel Pereira, horn. I also did the Tchaikowsky with the Russian conductor Victor Yampolsy, whose father was David Oistrakh’s long time pianist! After that we had Brodsky concerts in Scotland and Ireland, and then I was off to Sicily, were I’ve been a regular guest at the Trecastagni International Music Festival, a lovely happening on the slopes of the Etna. Now it’s the tour with the JON, and then after a couple of days holiday it’s my festival in August.

Congratulations on your appointment as first violinist of the Brodsky Quartet! The members of the Quartet have called the ensemble a “marriage of four” – so how is your honeymoon?
It’s perfect! From the first notes we played together I think we all had a good feeling, definitely I did!

In your first statement after the appointment, you mentioned that there was a “special chemistry” going on between the four of you. In which way, would you say, does it differ from your previous ensembles or the Breitner Quartet you currently perform with?
The wonderful situation with the Brodskys is that Ian, Paul and Jacky know the quartet repertoire so incredibly well, and yet retain a wonderfull freshness. I always try to make music with people with whom I feel a great musical understanding... often one doesn’t need to speak too much in rehearsal if you are on the same wavelength. The Breitner Quartet was never a fully fledged quartet like the Brodskys, it was more like some musical friends who from time to time play together, and I’m sure we will continue to play together in various combinations.

You already guest-lead the Brodsky Quartet in May and June. Were you still slowly feeling towards each other or did the ensemble already feel like a coherent unit at the time? Was there an offical audition before these live appointments in which you got to know each other?
We met in February for a morning of quartet playing... I suyppose one could call that an audition, although it felt much more like a spontaneous session of chamber music making! As I said, Ian, Paul and Jacky are incredibly ‘together’, but of course as we go along we are gradually finding our voice, a voice that is the sum of the 4 of us.

The Brodsky Quartet’s repertoire has a wide scope, ranging from Beethoven and Haydn to the 21st centure. Was this openness to many different eras and genres an important part of the attraction of playing with them?
I have always had a wide range of musical interests, and have played a lot of new music, from Piazzolla to Berio to Ferneyhough. So, yes... It was part of the attraction!

As the Brodsky Quartet has worked with Elvis Costello and Björk in the past: How would you describe your relationship with Rock and Pop? Could you imagine working with an artist like Sting, for example?
To be perfectly honest I have virtually no relationship to rock or pop... but I know and  love the Brodsky recordings with Elvis Costelo, and look forward to working with many amazing artists, among them people like Sting.

What’s your ideal with regards to working on an interpretation within an ensemble – and has this topic already come up in the preparations of your upcoming residency at the Cadogan Hall?
It’s a combination of ‘magic’, that, which happens without any words being spoken and discussions in which differents possibilities are tried out and evaluated.

Speaking of which: Have there are already been decisions on the repertoire you are about to play during your residency beyond the first gig?
Definitely. The first concert will be Turina, Brahms A minor and the wonderful Beethoven A minor, the 2nd program will include the Schubert 2 cello Quintet and Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht, and later in the season there will be a collaboration with a very famous singer from the pop/rock world! The whole season is a homage to the incomparable Hollywood String Quartet, that we all 4 enormously admire.

The press release also mentions that the Cadogan Hall will serve as a recording site for future CD projects of the Brodsky Quartet. Are there any concrete plans in that respect?
You’ll be the first to know!

You’ve worked in various String Quartet settings. What, to you, is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the format, which still keeps you hooked to it?
The format is quite simply perfect. It’s sublimely balanced and has inspired countless composers to use this specific combination of instruments to express their most intimate, most profound thoughts and emotions. In some ways the very perfection of the string quartet makes it  rather intimidating to tackle it. The challenges are awesome!

You’re also the organisor of the Stift Festival in the Netherlands. What can you tell us about it?
Our goal is for talented young musicians to spend a week with a leading international faculty, studying with them in Masterclasses and playing chamber music together. Every night there are concerts in a beautiful church, the Stiftskerk by the faculty and the students. We have a great faculty and this year our special guest is the legendary virtuoso Ivry Gitlis. We have around 50 students, who stay with host families. This will be the 3rd edition and I’m tremendously loking forward to it, remembering the terrific atmosphere of the 1st 2 editions.

The Festival is working together closely with students. Is there a main message behind your masterclasses?
It’s all about energy, passion, emotions and communication. We try to transmit this to the students in many ways: in the Masterclasses, playing quintets or octets together, in our festival orchestra, and also having lunch together and  spending time together after the concerts. Our message is: making music is wonderful and a huge amount of fun!

From the experiences of the past editions: Would you say that the interaction with the students is a two-way affair? Are there still things you take home from them and which benefit your own playing?
Most definitely it is! Teaching can be very inspiring. Also trying to solve a problem in a student's playing forces the teacher to think hard to find the key to solving this…and this process can very much benefit the teacher. Also seeing the progress the participants can make in a week as intensive as the festival week inevitably is, is thrilling.

You’ve spent a considerable time in the Netherlands – how would you rate your mastery of the Dutch language?
It’s not too bad, my mother is Dutch and I’ve lived there since I was 3!!

By Tobias Fischer

Daniel Rowland
Brodsky Quartet

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