On the surface, a collaboration between singer-songwriter Elvis Costello and an internationally renowned string quartet seems an unlikely one. Elvis Costello first heard the Brodsky Quartet playing the Shostakovich string quartets in London in 1989. Unknown to him, members of the quartet had also been to his London concerts and eventually, after an exchange of letters and recordings, they met and began to explore ideas.
The inspiration for their first major project was a newspaper article about a Veronese academic who had for several years been replying to letters addressed to ‘Juliet Capulet’ and the Edison Award-winning album entitled The Juliet Letters emerged from this in 1993, with music and lyrics worked on by all five artists. From there the partnership has grown and developed and now features not only songs from The Juliet Letters but works spanning the whole of Elvis Costello’s catalogue as well as pre-existing arrangements and transcriptions by the Brodsky Quartet.
A recent UK tour, in Spring 2009, featured (for the first time) Costello playing the guitar alongside the Quartet. This adds a further dimension and opened up new possibilities for some of the existing arrangements. In addition, there were several new, previously unheard versions of a wide variety of songs, including Paul Cassidy’s re-working of the Oscar nominated The Scarlet Tide (co-written by Costello and T-Bone Burnett) originally written for Anthony Minghella’s 2003 American Civil War film Cold Mountain.