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Cat. No. CHAN 10292 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10292 - Beethoven: String Quartets, Volume 4
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Available From: 10 January 2005
The last phase in Beethoven’s quartet-writing odyssey began with a commission for three quartets from an old admirer, the cello-playing, St Petersburg-based Prince Nikolay Golitsin. Golitsin’s request came in late 1822, when Beethoven was still working on the Ninth Symphony, and the composer finally turned to the Quartet in E flat major in the second half of 1824. Although its fundamentally serene nature makes it a richly adorned gateway to subsequent mysteries, Beethoven took some time to settle on the key and the outwardly conventional form of four movements. The finished product is full of anomalies, beginning with the dislocated rhythms of the Maestoso chords at the start. They appear three times throughout the first movement in different keys, articulating a new section, and each time melting into the smooth Allegro theme, which clearly had a special significance for Beethoven; he marked it both dolce (gently) and teneramente (tenderly). There is little struggle here; the minor-key sadness of the second subject is banished by its ultimate return in the major, and the tender theme rocks the movement gently to sleep like a lullaby. The rapt mood is heightened and held throughout the Adagio, Beethoven’s most extended to date. The extensively explored trills and skips of the scherzo, on the other hand, are inexplicably interrupted by solemn unisons from viola and cello while transfigured country music, flowing in a chain of inspired simple melodies, is the terrain of the finale. But why the lead-in with the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, and what does the will-o-the-wisp coda really mean? The enigmas of late Beethoven begin here.

It was characteristic of Beethoven in his last years to begin a work without mapping out its entire course, but the turn taken by the Quartet in A minor, Op. 132 is unique.The ‘sacred song of thanks’ which beats at the quartet’s heart was the composer’s testament of recovery from a grave illness in 1825.
Reviews

This redoubtable Russian group plays with all the powerful, focused tone youd expect and brings out the entire wealth of Beethovens colour in these fiery performances.
Classic FM Magazine on Volume 2

The Borodin’s Beethoven series has, with this fourth volume, reached the halfway mark – time for assessment, perhaps. The impact of the playing is very positive: clear, expressive, unforced tone combined with spontaneity and lack of mannerism. The unrivalled experience of this group – Valentin Berlinsky has been playing with the quartet since its inception in 1945 – doesn’t translate into a one-sided, set view of Beethoven’s compositions. Instead we are given the feeling of a voyage of discovery, and of the player’s own enjoyment of the music.
Gramophone

These Borodin accounts are distinguished by their feeling of spontaneity; the continual small rubati and emphases may be worked out in advance but sound like spur-of-the-moment inflections as each player lives the music. Another striking overall impression is of tonal beauty, with a near perfect blend of sounds.
Gramophone on Volume 1

 

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