Brooklyn Rider makes classical music relevant to a modern crowd 

Riders on the storm

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Here's a Spoleto success story: If it weren't for Music in Time Director John Kennedy, Brooklyn Rider would not exist. At least that's what he told us when introducing the New York-based string quartet. Something about introducing two music teachers, who feel in love, got married, and had a child named Nicholas Cords (Brooklyn Rider's violist). So really, though the musicians provided us with an incredible evening of classical music, we have Kennedy to thank for Tuesday's show.

The foursome skillfully explored the music and influence of Claude Debussy, with both modern and classical compositions. This classical music newbie may not know the lingo to provide an in-depth review of their technique, but I do know that their powerful playing gave me goosebumps on multiple occasions, and they had the capacity crowd at the Simons Center holding their breath. The fact is, you don't have to be a classical music geek to love Brooklyn Rider — they appeal to a whole new crowd of listeners thanks to riveting original arrangements, an energetic playing style, and an approachable stage presence.

Upon entering the stage, they jumped right into the four-movement "Achilles Heel," written by violinist Colin Jacobsen for their album Dominant Curve. "It's the centerpiece of the album," Jacobsen explained. "It's inspired by Debussy's love of texture in one key."

They followed that with a piece by Philip Glass, after which cellist Eric Jacobsen joked, "Speaking after that piece is like answering a cell phone in a concert."

Next up was a classic Debussy tune, which Eric told us was written after the composer had travelled to a world exposition and returned with a new breadth of knowledge about music, which "added to the palette of colors and nuances in his music." When his peers asked him why he was breaking with tradition (which reminds us of a certain Brooklyn foursome), he was famously quoted as saying "Pleasure is the law."

Jacobsen said, "It's the same thing as why fried green tomatoes are so good."

After an enthusiastic standing ovation, they returned to the stage to play a preview of Thursday night's show, "La Muerte Chiquita," an arrangement of a Mexican rock song. The Mexican influence was distinctly recognizable in parts of the song, but the rock part carried throughout. As with the rest of the concert, they rocked out on their instruments — plucking and drumming, extracting surprising sounds that had us doing double takes. They swayed with the music, their enjoyment obvious and infectious.

Nearly every seat was taken for Tuesday's performance, and if you're smart, you'll buy your tickets for Thursday's show right away. Even if you attended Tuesday, they'll be exploring a brand new set list.


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