We gave our first concert in Dartington, in 1947 as the Brainin Quartet. Imogen Holst, Gustav Holst's daughter, who had always been an admirer of Norbert's said she would like to sponsor a Wigmore Hall recital for us. This took place the following year as the first concert of the Amadeus Quartet.
Norbert was ever his own man, both in his character and playing. Sometimes his ideas caused eyebrows to be raised, not least by his colleagues in the quartet, but knowing his essential goodness, what in others would have been dubious became just one of Norbert's eccentricities. His teacher Carl Flesch once asked him what he was practicing. Norbert answered, "intonation." Flesch said "but intonation in your strongest point!" Norbert replied "that's why!"
Once he had an engagement to play a concerto with a small orchestra. He was found coming out of a cinema when he should have been playing in the concert. He is reported to have said "I wondered why I had the fiddle with me!"
We remained, all four of us, wonderfully good friends, indeed more like brothers. Perhaps less intimately towards the end, but we still enjoyed each other's company on tour, spent our spare time together, ate and traveled together, unlike other quartets reputations.
It is very rare, if ever, that one describes a performing artist as being possessed of genius, but the number times that has been said that of Norbert must be countless. He was a great quartet leader, perhaps the outstanding one of his generation and a wonderful human being, a gentleman, with a unique, larger than life, personality. I am proud to have been his colleague. We miss him.
Norbert Brainin passed away April 10, 2005 at the age of 82 in Harrow, north London.
Martin Lovett was cellist for the Amadeus Quartet until its disbandment in 1987.
This remembrance was brought to KMFA by long-time supporter and volunteer Lucian Chimene. It is republished with permission by Martin Lovett.