Meet Marianne Broadfoot and the Enigma Quartet

They are talented, intelligent and vivacious. They are champions of the classics and fearless explorers of the new. They are the members of the Enigma Quartet and they will be joining the Sydney Soloists in a programme of works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven at the Society’s next concert on Friday 10 July 2015.


Enigma Quartet

Enigma Quartet: Rowena Macneish (cello) Kerry Martin (violin) Shelley Soerensen (viola) Marianne Broadfoot (violin)

Charmain Boyakovsky of Sydney Mozart Society recently spoke with Enigma Quartet violinist Marianne Broadfoot about her career, her involvement with the Enigma Quartet and the music the quartet will perform on 10 July.

Marianne is Associate Principal Second Violin with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. She has recently completed her PhD in Music at the Sydney Conservatorium, examining Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto as a Dionysian work of music. Marianne has performed and toured extensively with major Australian orchestras. She has been the recipient of a number of prestigious music prizes.

(Sydney Mozart Society) How did your love affair with the violin begin? When did you know that music and the violin would be your career? Who were your mentors and teachers?

(Marianne Broadfoot) I began piano lessons when I was about five, but took up the violin a few years later after seeing another girl at school playing in our music class. Learning and playing the violin was always enjoyable and fun, however I didn’t think of it in a career sense until going to National Music Camp. Helena Rathbone was one of the many inspirational tutors there who made me realize that I could and wanted to have a career in music. I was incredibly privileged to study with Professor Wanda Wilkomirska for five years during my post-graduate degree and she has an incredible spirit, both as a person and as a musician.

Speaking for the Enigma Quartet, I can say that the Goldner String Quartet is a huge inspiration for us. We admire and respect them so much and have been fortunate to have a few lessons with them. We’ve also had some terrific master classes with the Takacs and Borodin Quartets. The latter were a little intimidating to perform for but by the end they were quite warm and very generous with their advice.

(SMS) What have been the highlights of you performing career?

(MB) A highlight for me was winning a position with the SSO First Violins in 2008. It was a lovely feeling to know that you’re part of the team. Last year I moved to Associate Principal Second Violin, an experience I am enjoying immensely; it is like being in a big octet performing - and having fun - at the front of the orchestra. I have the use of an 1845 Pressenda violin on loan from the SSO, which is gorgeous, very warm and velvety in tone.

For the Enigma Quartet, being invited to perform at last year’s Huntington Estate Music Festival was a definite career highlight. We presented the premiere performance of Phillip Jameson’s first string quartet. It was enormously satisfying to be part of the creative process, working with the composer and trying to realize his imagination. The piece was quite challenging and required lots of hard work, but it came off well on the day, I think the audience really enjoyed it!  

(SMS) The Enigma Quartet members are all talented and experienced musicians with diverse musical backgrounds. What brought you together and what are the special qualities that make this collaboration work?

(MB) Kerry, Shelley and I have been performing together since university days in 2006. We did struggle to find a cellist who was available to do as much quartet playing as we wanted to do. When we asked Rowena to perform with us in 2012 the group just clicked.

For a chamber ensemble to be successful, rapport and mutual respect are vital. When we’re rehearsing a piece, we all need to feel free to share our ideas about how something should be interpreted, whether that’s phrasing, tempi, dynamics, character or intonation. Of course there are times when we disagree musically, but we have to be prepared to put aside our own preferences to reach a consensus. Because we spend so much time together, it’s lucky that we enjoy each other’s company and are great friends!

(SMS) The Enigma Quartet has a wide repertoire from classics to contemporary works. How do you decide what works you will perform?

(MB) The string quartet repertoire is enormous; it would take a lifetime to work through all the great works. We are gradually trying to fill n the gaps in our repertoire. Time forces us to be selective, we focus on works that we all enjoy and that we think audiences will enjoy (even if the works are not familiar)

Because we invest so much time, effort, and emotional energy in perfecting a work for performance, it has to have special qualities to justify the effort. We only work on and present music that we believe in.

Performing newer or contemporary works can be challenging. We spend a lot of time getting to know and understand new works. By the time they are ready for performance, we know what is special about their character and enjoy sharing that with audiences. It is very rewarding for us when audiences trust our judgment and listen to new works with an open mind and enjoy the experience.

(SMS) In your concert for us in July the Enigma Quartet will be performing Haydn’s op 74 no 1 string quartet. What do you like about this work?

(MB) We really enjoy performing works by Haydn. He was the grandfather of the string quartet form. His works are so joyous. Like all his works, the op 74 no 1 is beautiful, with a lovely lyrical flow. It has some great contrapuntal writing, interesting passages in the middle voices and dramatic elements that give it extra interest. It was written for performance in a concert hall rather than a private drawing room, so you can feel Haydn enlarging the string quartet form adding new dimensions and brilliance to suit a public performance.

(SMS) The ensemble is also performing the Mozart clarinet quintet, K 581 with Frank Celata. What do you like about Mozart and this work?

(MB) Mozart is another composer we enjoy performing. His music is always eloquent, perfect in its architecture and style. There is a sense that his music is effortless. It has an apparent simplicity, but listen carefully and you hear dazzling complexity.

This quintet is sublime. The timbre of the clarinet allows the string instruments to play with a lovely openness. A flute would be too bright with strings, an oboe would be too piquant, but the clarinet is perfect. When they blend with the clarinet the strings can achieve a depth of harmonies and sound qualities that is beautiful.

(SMS) What are the Enigma Quartet's plans for the future? What can your audiences look forward to?

(MB) We are working on our own concert series, which we will be performing at the Conservatorium and in Turramurra and Port Macquarie.

We are also looking forward to an exciting collaboration with shakuhachi master, Riley Lee. We performed with Riley in 2014 at the Bellingen Music Festival playing some works together by Lachlan Skipworth and Elena Kats-Chernin. The sound of the eastern shakuhachi blending with the western string quartet was truly gorgeous and drew a great response from the audience. So we’ve decided to commission leading Australian composers to write new works for string quartet and shakuhachi. The works will have the five elements – earth, air, water, fire and ether - as their themes. We are looking forward to recording these works, then going on tour to share them with audiences.


To read more about the very talented and  hard working Enigma Quartet, visit the ensemble’s website  and Facebook page