Brooklyn Rider, and Hope Springs Atonal

Brooklyn Rider

By Marty Ronish

When my grandfather was in his 80s, he would go every two weeks to get a vitamin B-12 shot.  For about two days he would be energized and full of the dickens.  Well, a great concert or a fascinating piece of music can do the same thing for you. 

The string quartet Brooklyn Rider gave Seattle a real shot in the arm last night.  If you don’t know the group, check out their website.  The four (Colin Jacobsen, Johnny Gandelsman, Nicholas Cords, and Eric Jacobsen) are superb musicians individually.   I first heard Colin Jacobsen at the open-air Santa Fe Opera, playing the Ravel trio with Yo-Yo Ma and Joel Fan. The music blew off their stands early on in the first movement, but it didn’t faze them.  They kept playing and finished the movement with the audience in rapt delight.

We brought Colin in as the Young-Artist-in-Residence at Performance Today (back when it was at NPR) and he brought along some of his friends – including Brooklyn Rider — for a week of in-studio performances.  In 2007 Brooklyn Rider showed up at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Yo-Yo and the Silk Road Ensemble, and I produced a feature with them for the CSO broadcasts.  Every time I hear them, they have new ideas, new takes on old standards, and freshly-composed works in their repertoire.  Four superb, dynamic musicians and excellent human beings.

When we radio types have these tired old discussions about how much “lite” music to play during mid-days or how frequently we should cycle the Beethoven symphonies, I want to say ENOUGH.  Bring in Brooklyn Rider and listen to something new.  They played a Philip Glass quartet last night that was tonal, full of gorgeous melodies, and the sonorities were just stunning.  I’ve never heard that piece on the radio before. Your audience would love it.  At least play a movement of it!  Nobody will turn off the radio.

The whole concert was tonal, which is good for radio, and the group’s energy and youthful enthusiasm was utterly infectious.

That’s not to say atonal music is bad for radio.  The dynamic HD/web channel Q2 from WQXR in New York has a new program hosted by the talented Nadia Sirota, called Hope Springs Atonal.  This channel is destination listening for broad-minded music lovers, so I look forward to broadening my mind even more, and — heaven forfend! — even learning something from Nadia.

Classical music is not dead, you know.