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Cat. No. CHAN 10381(3) Price: £21 No. of discs: 3
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CHAN 10381 - Beethoven: String Quartets, Volume 6
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Available From: 01 February 2006
Founded in 1945 the Borodin Quartet is the world’s longest-lived String Quartet, with an unparalleled reputation and history, and boasts among its members cellist Valentin Berlinsky who has performed with the quartet from its inception. Although the ensemble has performed an extensive range of the vast string quartet literature, the players have a particular affinity for the quartets of Beethoven. Completing the cycle are his virtuosic Op.18 quartets, which look back to Haydn and were the first quartets composed by Beethoven. Commissioned by Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz, each of the six quartets has a distinct personality and Beethoven was careful about the relationships. They are rarely recorded as one set.

Beethoven turned to the challenging genre of the string quartet when he was twenty-seven, and created the last quartet of his astonishing cycle some twenty-eight years later, shortly before his death. The Borodin Quartet’s record-breaking career spans twice that length of time, and yet it has only recently realised what Berlinsky calls ‘the great dream of my life: to play all of Beethoven’s quartets from first to last’. It is fitting, therefore, that Chandos releases the final volume during the Borodin Quartet’s sixtieth birthday year.

This completes the Borodin Beethoven cycle – the previous five volumes consist of single CDs. It has proved to be a fascinating project, distinguished by fine, beautifully balanced tone, a sense of spontaneous expression and many musical insights.

These performances are consistently songful, and they flow very naturally – no exaggerations, no attempt at ‘gripping’ emotions, and no sludge-like adagios. They are almost all uniformly bright and chipper and a little on the fast side, though they could hardly be called rigid or unemotional – these are Russians, after all, even if they are Russians post-2000. But they refuse to be cowed by the name Beethoven, and they are never heavy or ‘serious’. They playing seems quite beautiful to me – certainly songful and uncomplicated.
American Record Guide

‘This redoubtable Russian group plays with all the powerful, focussed tone you’d expect and brings out the entire wealth of Beethoven’s colour in these fiery performances.’
Classic FM

This, the sixth and final instalment of the Borodin Quartet’s traversal of Beethoven’s string quartets, has, like its predecessors, much to recommend it. As before, the recording is technically state-of-the-art. It boasts a close perspective that creates a welcome presence and sense of intimacy while remaining free of harshness and the intrusive breathing that in some modern quartet recordings can sound like a fifth instrument. Similarly, the playing itself is technically accomplished: beautifully balanced, each instrument given its due and suitably weighted so that, even in chords, individual voices can be discerned. Impressive too, is the attention paid to Beethoven’s dynamic shadings and contrasts, fortes emerging with an eruptive assertiveness typical of the composer’s creative personality.
International Record Review

The Borodins probe with such clarity and necessary freshness that the young composer’s creative tussles are conjured up before our ears. Each note, cadence and dramatic digression is communicated with purpose, and the joyous finale of No. 6 tosses a vodka glass into the sonic fire. But the standout performance is undoubtedly No. 5. Here the four musicians ricochet Beethoven’s Mozartian roots against his tactile folksiness like they’re wired into the mains.
Classic FM Magazine


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