This weekend acclaimed classical group the Brodsky Quartet are celebrating their 40th Anniversary with concerts in London.
However, their Wheel of 4Tunes tour around Europe almost ended in disaster last week when all their sheet music was stolen from the boot of a car in Holland.
The musicians, who have collaborated with Elvis Costello and Bjork, were eating at a restaurant in Haarlem where they were due to perform their penultimate concert in the country, when they fell victim to a smash-and-grab theft in the car park.
One of the two bags taken contained clothes and a laptop, but the other contained all the cello and viola parts to be played in their upcoming concerts. This amounted to 40 string quartets. Some of the music had been carried by the group for as long as they had been together (since 1972).
At the Wheels of 4Tunes concerts the musicians invite audience members to spin a wheel (rather like television show The Wheel of Fortune) to decide what pieces are played, meaning the band need their complete collection of works at hand for the performance to work.
“It was horrifying”, says Jacqueline Thomas, Cellist in the Brodsky Quartet. “Any musician will know the importance of having your own well-loved marked part, with fingerings, bowings, cues, as well as clever page-turn tricks, all essential for a smooth performance under pressure all essential for a smooth performance under pressure, especially when the Wheel can throw up any one of 40 works! We were devastated!”
The Quartet were forced to perform a fixed programme in Utrecht using scores borrowed from friends.
But incredibly five days after the theft the bags were recovered by a traffic policeman who spotted them on the side of a road under a bridge.
“There was a canal they were probably aiming for but, happily for all their victims, they missed!” says Thomas. “ALL the missing music was there! Not a sheet out of place, as if the thieves had carefully packed it back knowing its importance!”
As for avoiding a repeat of the incident, Thomas says one suggestion they received was that they should only eat in drive-in restaurants.
“We’ll definitely get round to scanning the entire 250-odd string quartets repertoire one day and saving it to a memory stick, wonder how long that would take…”