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Brooklyn Rider, the hippest of string quartets, asks for donations towards unorthodox Beethoven interpretation

By John Terauds on February 6, 2012

We are two weeks from the official release date of Seven Steps, the latest album from oh-so-hip Brooklyn Rider. Everything is recorded and produced, including an LP for those who prefer to be able to scratch their favourite audio keepsakes.

Yet the quartet is still trying to raise money on Kickstarter.com in advance of the album’s Feb. 21 release.

This afternoon, 212 backers had pledged to contribute $29,420, less than $600 away from the group’s fundraising goal.

The foursome has made its name with vivid performances of new music. But, this time, two new pieces bookend one of the great string quartets of the classical repertoire: Ludwig van Beethoven’s 14th, Op. 131, in C-sharp minor.

Here’s how the quartet describes the Beethoven piece on their Kickstarter page:

One of the central challenges of that piece is that it places huge emotional and physical demands on the player, often posing near-impossible musical juxtapositions. But in demanding the impossible, Beethoven forces us to rise to no less than our full potential, to interact with each other and society on equal terms, to love and to be vulnerable—in short, to experience a sense of catharsis together. Throughout our rehearsal process, we came to understand op. 131 as the story of a life, and the ingenious variation of musical DNA throughout surely creates one of the ultimate motivic journeys in the classical music canon. This is truly mind and spirit-expanding music and it is our privilege as performers to live in this world.

It is rare for Kickstarter to be used for a recording of a classical work, but as more and more artists look for ways to fund independent recordings, it will catch on.

But the results are as unorthodox and the funding: Brooklyn Rider provides as mind-expanding an interpretation as is Beethoven’s original music. I’m not sure I like it, but it’s great to hear something as unorthodox just to shake things up. The boys do something strange in its movement — especially so in the slow ones.

It’s also great whenever someone confidently places new music alongside something from the canon on the same programme.

You can get a free listen for the next week of the album on NPR. It’s well worth getting your classical timbers shivered.

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