BROOKLYN RIDER: String quartet as world view.

Brooklyn Rider
NUVO Magazine

By Eric Friesen

What’s in a name? Everything when it comes to Brooklyn Rider.

Who and what the group is can be traced back to a moment some 12 years ago when the members came up with the name of their newly formed string quartet. They had settled in Brooklyn because, as violist Nicholas Cords describes it, “Brooklyn is this great artistic community. It’s a dance world, a literary world, filled with different types of music. And we love the idea of those art forms talking to each other and collaborating, which is a lot of what we do.” Cords continues, “We were also inspired by the Blue Rider group in Munich, active around the time of World War I, also a collective of artists, musicians, and writers. What we like about and identified with that group is that they cast a very large umbrella in terms of the future of art, not just art as defined by the Academy, but art as world view, championing other artists, art of other cultures, children’s art. So we became Brooklyn Rider.” The quartet is known for its genre-defying musical choices, playing the string quartet canon while also expanding it through new compositions.

On a midsummer afternoon, Brooklyn Rider—composed of violist Cords, cellist Michael Nicolas, and violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen—are in Perugia, Italy, performing with Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter (with whom they toured earlier in 2017). Instead of a concert of opera arias arranged for string quartet, Brooklyn Rider and von Otter are performing arrangements of songs by Rufus Wainwright, Elvis Costello, Björk, and Kate Bush, as well as a quirky setting of a Lydia Davis short story, “For Sixty Cents”. In the middle of the concert, von Otter takes a break and the quartet dives into Czech composer Leoš Janácek’s “String Quartet No. 1”, seamlessly embracing string quartet tradition and a more contemporary practice of turning pop songs into art songs.

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