Ask Brooklyn Rider's cellist Eric Jacobsen about some of his influences, and the classical musician's answer might surprise you.
"I really love Mario Battalli," he says. "First and foremost, he cooks with the best ingredients, and he cooks with brilliant chefs. He comes from a very strong tradition of classical cooking, as we [Brooklyn Rider] do in some ways, and yet he finds his way. Each restaurant that he has is a different style. And in the way that every music is a different style, he's able to blend things together unbelievably well, even in one dish, let alone an entire meal."
All that chef talk might throw you off (or make you hungry), but it makes sense given Brooklyn Rider's reputation. With their cool name and snappy style, they're more likely to be mistaken for indie rockers than classical musicians. Born out of an impromptu collaboration on NPR's Performance Today, the group is known for extending the borders of the traditional string quartet to create a new, post-classical sound. Violist Nicholas Cords and violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen (Eric's brother) round out the group.
"We love concerts that span a wide spectrum of music making, whether it's pop music strict or classical music strict," Jacobsen says. "What we do is try to bring elements of music together that we find similar or different for the sake of it."
Case in point: Brooklyn Rider's June 8 Spoleto concert is centered around the Debussy quartet. In their efforts to learn more about the famous composer, they commissioned modern composers to write music influenced by Debussy.
"I feel like the way we program is a little bit like how people's lives work today," Jacobsen says. "Things are happening really quick, and there are instant connections made ... There is something to be said for being able to tie two pieces together with a thought. At the same time, we really like to cater toward playing beautiful music as it's been heard and how we like to play it ourselves, and that can attract a more traditional audience."
As their name suggests, living in Brooklyn has a huge influence on the musicians. For Jacobsen, who interjects instructions to his cab driver throughout the interview, Prospect Park is one of his favorite things about living in the borough.
"I bike around the [Prospect] park, and every 100 to 200 yards on a nice day, you'll see a completely different culture from a completely different part of the world with a completely different understanding of language and food, yet actually there are so many similarities," Jacobsen says. "I think being able to live in this continuous Venn Diagram of culture — it's amazing luck."