Classic Quartets at the BBC


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Classic Quartets at the BBC

Celebrating the string quartet through 50 years of BBC archive. Ensembles including the Amadeus, Chilingirian, Borodin and Kronos quartets perform in myriad styles and settings.


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HIGH-TEMPO CLASSICAL RECITAL

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The string quartet - two violins, a viola and a cello -

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is one of the bedrocks of classical music -

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a tradition which stretches back to Joseph Haydn in the 18th century.

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And today there are more ensembles than ever

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to expand the quartet's repertoire and soundscape.

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Tonight, we'll be celebrating some of the greatest of them

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in myriad styles and settings.

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From black and white to colour,

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from stately homes to helicopters.

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Our Classic Quartets at the BBC.

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The bond between them is tremendous.

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It must be, if four men

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are to hammer themselves into one instrument.

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Weld themselves, with all their differences, into one single voice.

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They all live close together, meet every day,

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whether there's a concert or not,

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rehearse in each other's homes in turn, travel together.

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All four spend some time teaching or playing in orchestras,

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or giving recitals, but their central occupation is this quartet.

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And what each of them individually brings to the quartet

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is a life almost wholly given up to music.

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APPLAUSE

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-RADIO:

-And that's the end of the late weather forecast.

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Music at night is given by the Allegri Quartet.

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Eli Goren - violin, James Barton - violin,

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Patrick Ireland - viola and William Pleeth - cello.

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They're to play music by Ravel.

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Like the Allegris, our next classic quartet is also British.

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They met at the St Endellion Music Festival in Cornwall in 1979.

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Originally founded in Hungary,

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the Takacs Quartet moved to the United States in 1983,

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where they're resident at the University of Colorado.

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Here, they capture Dvorak's tribute to the Spirit of America.

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In the last 50 years, more composers have been working

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with string quartets to re-imagine what the form can do.

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And our next classic quartet is renowned for leading the way.

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We're trailblazing. We're walking in fresh snow.

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Nobody can tell us how this music should be done

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by looking in a book

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or researching a period of history 200 years ago.

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Perhaps the only person who can point us

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in a direction which could be called right would be the composers,

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who we, in many, many cases, work with.

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In the summer of 1964,

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the BBC broadcast a series of chamber music concerts

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and invited one of Britain's most popular quartets into the studio.

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Good evening.

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Omnibus this week begins at a concert in Stoke,

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which features the four young musicians

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who make up the Lindsay String Quartet.

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Now, they're a very remarkable group of players, this quartet,

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not only for their musical ability,

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but also because one of their aims

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is to break down the mystique which still surrounds chamber music,

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even for some people who reckon to enjoy opera, say,

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or Romantic symphonies.

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At Peter Cheeseman's Victoria Theatre in Stoke,

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the Lindsay has been doing an entire Beethoven cycle

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this season in a specially informal atmosphere.

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The Omnibus film unit spent some time with them last January

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to prepare this portrait of the Lindsay Quartet at work.

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We've found that, really, a university

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was a marvellous basis on which to build a quartet.

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It gives you a chance to, not consciously mould yourselves,

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but just purely by being together for the number of hours

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that a university position will allow you to do.

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Because you definitely need time to mould four people's

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way of thinking and way of playing.

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Beethoven was commissioned by Count Razumovsky.

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He wrote three quartets of 59.

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And I think the slow movement of 59 No.1

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is just out of this world, just fantastic.

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That's the great thing about quartets.

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I mean, you imagine most people

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doing the same thing for 20, 30, 40 years,

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playing the same music time and time again...

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Well, we've only done it for nine years now,

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but I still, every time I play, find something new every time.

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I'm not saying that this is the only type of concerts there should be.

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I think there should be every possibility.

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I mean, I like dressing up for certain occasions.

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But when you see people in tails on a platform, say,

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50 yards away from you,

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you tend to think of them as purely machines

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that are producing a sound that you want to hear.

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We're trying to break that down with these particular concerts,

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provide people with something to drink,

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and try and show that we are in fact human beings

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with the same sort of feelings as they have.

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And I think this doesn't often come across.

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Now more wonderful contrasts.

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Returning from their recent triumphant string

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of incredible dates -

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there's even more dates you can see them at left, I think -

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we welcome now into the studio Kronos Quartet.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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And now from the Later studio in Maidstone

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to St George's Church in Bristol.

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The Armenian-born violinist Levon Chilingirian

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founded his celebrated string quartet in 1971

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with the cellist Philip De Groote.

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Here they are playing the opening of Schubert's famous

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one-movement work for string quartet, the Quartettsatz.

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Levon Chilingirian loved the work of our next classic quartet,

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which, remarkably, kept the same founding members

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throughout its long history.

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They're interviewed here by Bernard Levin.

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For a third of a century these four men have been making music together,

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and, in that time, they have welded themselves into a single,

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unique musical instrument with a sound that is loved

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in every land where the great classics

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of the chamber music repertoire -

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Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert - are known.

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They are the Amadeus Quartet.

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The one thing that we all wonder about

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is how you four came together in the first place.

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Well, first of all,

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the first other member of the quartet I met was Peter,

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Peter Schidlof,

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and we met during internment near the beginning of the war.

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We met in a...

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..in a camp for internees

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of enemy nationality,

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which was either German or Austrian or both.

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And this is where we first met.

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Was the tradition then that...

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I mean, you've broken all the records, of course, but was

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the tradition then for a quartet to remain with unchanged personnel?

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Of course it was to be hoped that they would,

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but it hardly ever happened.

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I mean, people almost inevitably changed

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after a few years.

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One or the other wanted to leave, or the whole ensemble

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tended to break up or whatever.

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I think we...

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Next...

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Right at the beginning of the year, it will be 35 years

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of the Amadeus Quartet,

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unchanged, which is...

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-I believe it is a record.

-It must be.

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In fact, it's never happened ever

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since the string quartet was invented about 250 years ago.

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You must go away.

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You must go away.

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And she said, "Quick, go!"

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And she said, "Quick."

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And she said, "Quick."

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And she said, "Quick, go!"

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"Quick, go!"

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And he said, "Don't breathe."

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And he said, "Don't breathe."

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And he said...

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He said, "Don't breathe."

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And he said, "Don't breathe."

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And he said, "Don't breathe."

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And he said, "Don't..."

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He said, "Don't breathe."

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Into those cattle wagons.

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Into those cattle wagons.

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For four days and four nights.

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For four days and four nights.

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And then we went through these strange-sounding names.

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Strange-sounding...

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And then we went through these strange-sounding names.

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Polish.

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Polish names.

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Lots of cattle wagons there.

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Lots of cattle wagons.

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Lots of cattle wagons there.

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They were loaded with people.

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They were loaded with people.

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They shaved us.

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They shaved us.

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The BBC series Music In Camera provided a television showcase

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for the world's greatest musicians,

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with over 70 programmes broadcast in the late 1980s.

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In 1989, the Tokyo String Quartet were invited to perform

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Schubert's famous Death And The Maiden Quartet in A minor.

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Here's the scherzo.

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APPLAUSE

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Founded in the Soviet Union in 1945,

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the Borodin Quartet has a long and prestigious history.

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Its members worked closely with Shostakovich,

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and performed at the funerals of both Prokofiev and Stalin.

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All the members of the quartet over the years have been graduates

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of the Moscow Conservatory.

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In 2014, BBC Proms Extra invited the young British ensemble

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The Heath Quartet into the studio.

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The ensemble is much admired for its performances of Michael Tippett,

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and they went on to win the Gramophone Chamber Award

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two years later.

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From the Royal College of Music to an airstrip in Germany.

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Yes, it is still the string quartet,

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but perhaps not as we know it.

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Several times I have dreamt works of music

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and I woke up and then

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made notes and have realised them.

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You would never think of having four quartet players flying in

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four helicopters through the air,

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and me being above looking through the helicopters

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and seeing these four helicopters flying around

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and playing the string quartet perfectly synchronous.

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Then I made notes, and, when I found the time, I wrote out the score.

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And then when I sent that score to the Salzburg Festival

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they thought I had gone crazy, you see?

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They didn't know how to do it.

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I hear helicopters which annoy me all the time,

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but in my dream they became musical instruments.

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Eins-s-s.

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Zwei!

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Drei-i-i!

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Sechs!

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Sieben!

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Acht!

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Neun!

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-Zehn!

-Elf!

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Zwolf!

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Dreizehn!

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So I had in a mix sequencer

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very clearly separated the four sounds of

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the four helicopters and of the four instruments,

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always in pairs,

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I could project them over four groups of loudspeakers.

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Our final classic quartet also leads the way in

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exploring new avenues and audiences.

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Here they are working with Elvis Costello.

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For those of you who haven't met them before,

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please let me introduce you to the Brodsky Quartet.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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# They talk to the sister, the father and the mother

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# With a microphone in one hand and a chequebook in the other

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# And the camera noses in to the tears on her face

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# The tears on her face

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# The tears on her face

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# You can put them back together with your paper and paste

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# But you can't put them back together

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# You can't put them back together

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# What would you say?

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# What would you do?

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# Children and animals, two by two

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# Give me the needle Give me the rope

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# We're gonna melt them down for pills and soap

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# Four and twenty crowbars jammy your desire

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# Out of the frying pan into the fire

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# The king is in the counting house

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# Some folk have all the luck

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# And all we get are pictures of Lord and Lady Muck

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# They come from lovely people

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# With a hardline and hypocrisy

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# There are ashtrays of emotion

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# For the fag ends of the aristocracy

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# What would you say?

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# What would you do?

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# Children and animals, two by two

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# Give me the needle give me the rope

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# We're gonna melt them down for pills and soap

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# Give me the needle

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# Give me the rope

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# We're going melt them down

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# For pills and soap

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# For pills and soap. #

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE Two violins, a viola and a cello.

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The format might not have changed much but, as we've seen,

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it remains endlessly flexible -

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a musical chameleon able to adapt to

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many different styles and settings,

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blending together past and present.

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Stand by, everybody.

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We go ahead with the second movement in five seconds from now.

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But tonight we leave you back at the

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BBC's Maida Vale Studios in 1960.

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Music At Night is given by the Allegri Quartet.

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Eli Goren - violin,

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James Barton - violin,

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Patrick Ireland - viola,

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and William Pleeth - cello.

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They're to play music by Ravel.

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Clemency Burton-Hill celebrates the rich and ravishing world of the string quartet in a journey through 50 years of BBC archive. Some of the world's greatest ensembles including the Amadeus, Chilingirian, Borodin and Kronos quartets perform in myriad styles and settings, from stately homes to helicopters. Music ranges from Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to Steve Reich, Elvis Costello and Pete Townshend, in a tradition which stretches back to Haydn in the 18th century.