Borodin: String Quartets Nos 1 & 2 - Borodin Quartet (CD)

Current Stock:
The Borodin Quartet

“movement-by-movement comparison makes it clear that …the Borodins win hands down … their internal balance at every point is irreproachable” - Gramophone

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


String Quartet No.1 in A major
[1] Moderato – Allegro 13:40
[2] Andante con moto 8:20
[3] Scherzo: Prestissimo 5:25
[4] Andante – Allegro risoluto 10:34

String Quartet No.2 in D major
[5] Allegro moderato 7:53
[6] Scherzo: Allegro 4:47
[7] Nocturne: Andante 8:12
[8] Finale: Andante – Vivace 6:51

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


A classic recording of two Russian chamber masterworks.



Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) was one of the "Mighty Handful" of nationalistic Russian composers, but he was also an industrial chemist and Professor of Chemistry in St. Petersburg. Music was definitely a leisure time activity, which is why Dr. Borodin wrote so little and took forever to complete each work. His Russian contemporaries Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazounov regarded him as a gifted amateur, and were not averse to rewriting his music and touching up the orchestration. (Glazounov was entirely responsible for the Overture to Borodin's unfinished opera Prince Igor, for example.) In fact, it's only in the two string quartets and some piano music that we hear 100% genuine, mature Borodin.

The Second String Quartet (1881) has been recorded many times by famous ensembles including the Emerson and Takács Quartets. It became popular when themes from it were used in the Broadway musical Kismet (for the songs "This is my Beloved" and "Baubles, Bangles and Beads") - although it is decades since we've seen Kismet in Australia (and decades since songs with a distinctive melody made any headway with the public), so the Broadway connection is less strong today. The First Quartet (1877-79) appears more rarely on record, usually only alongside No. 2, yet it is a sophisticated work. Technically more daring than the mellifluous Second, it boasts a bracing scherzo movement.

The Russian quartet named after the composer has been in existence with various personnel for over 60 years. They recorded these two works a number of times: in 1964, 1980 and Quartet No. 2 only in 1961 and 2005. Here Alto issues a remastered disc of the 1964 Melodiya recording, with the line-up of violinists Rostislav Dubinsky and Yaroslav Alexandrov, violist Dmitri Shebalin, and cellist Valentin Berlinsky. (By 2005, Berlinsky was the only remaining member.) The group was renowned in this era, and while the sound may not be as open and sharp-edged as we'd like, musical artistry is everywhere evident. These players know when to press forward and when to relax into the composer's glorious melodies. Their internal balance is a marvel. In short, this is a classic recording of these beautiful works so if you don't know them, treat yourself.