Borodin Quartet

Chamber Ensemble

"What is most impressive is the Borodin’s sensitivity to the Haydnesque features that lend the music its special character, most notably its wit, in the sense of both humour and imagination."

International Record Review

"the Borodin Quartet plays with uncommonly rich, even tone and consoling warmth. For sheer musical presence, it has few equals."

The Sunday Telegraph

"The final sunset that the Borodins conjoured here was possessed of an almost supernatural radiance"

The Independent

"There can be no greater experience in chamber music than the Borodin Quartet playing Shostakovich."

The Australian

"the famous sweet and refined Borodin sound and performance style, which has all the class and sophistication of a well-maintained Bentley"

Daily Telegraph Australia

"In their smooth, perfectly balanced sound, impeccable intonation, and nigh-perfect moulding of the shape of each phrase and utterance, they are peerless."

The Sydney Morning Herald

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For more than seventy years, the Borodin Quartet has been celebrated for its insight and authority in the chamber music repertoire. Revered for its searching performances of Beethoven and Shostakovich, the Quartet is equally at home in music ranging from Mozart to Stravinsky. 

Described by the Daily Telegraph Australia as “the Russian grand masters”, the Borodin Quartet’s particular affinity with Russian repertoire is based on constant promotion, performances and recording of the pillars of Russian string quartet music - Borodin, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, as well as Glinka, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Schnittke. The Quartet is universally recognised for its genuine interpretation of Russian music, generating critical acclaim all over the world; the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes about them “here we have not four individual players, but a single sixteen-stringed instrument of great virtuosity”.

The Quartet's connection with Shostakovich's chamber music is intensely personal, since it was stimulated by a close relationship with the composer, who personally supervised its study of each of his quartets. Widely regarded as definitive interpretations, the Quartet’s cycles of the complete Shostakovich's quartets have been performed all over the world, including Vienna, Zurich, Frankfurt, Madrid, Lisbon, Seville, London, Paris and New York. The idea of performing a complete cycle of Shostakovich's quartets originated with the Borodin Quartet. In recent seasons, the ensemble has returned to a broader repertoire, including works by Schubert, Prokofiev, Borodin and Tchaikovsky, while continuing to be welcomed and acclaimed at major venues throughout the world.

The Borodin Quartet was formed in 1945 by four students from the Moscow Conservatory and remains one of the very few existing established chamber ensembles with uninterrupted longevity. The world has changed beyond recognition since 1945; the Borodin Quartet, meanwhile, has retained its commitment to tonal beauty, technical excellence and penetrating musicianship. The ensemble’s cohesion and vision have survived successive changes in personnel, thanks not least to the common legacy shared by its members from their training at the Moscow Conservatory. The current members of the Quartet are Ruben Aharonian, Sergei Lomovsky, Igor Naidin and Vladimir Balshin.

In addition to performing quartets, the Borodin Quartet regularly joins forces with other distinguished musicians to further explore the chamber music repertoire. Their partners have included Sviatoslav Richter, Yuri Bashmet, Michael Collins, Alexei Volodin, Mario Brunello, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Christoph Eschenbach, Boris Berezovsky, Denis Matsuev and Nikolai Lugansky. The Quartet have also recently collaborated with Vladimir Jurowski in Dresden performing the Martinu and Schulhoff concertos for orchestra and string quartet, a partnership which they will repeat this season in Moscow and next season in London. The Quartet also regularly receives invitations to give masterclasses, and to serve as jury members at major international competitions.

Highlights in 2017/18 include performances at Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall London, Vancouver Playhouse, 92nd St Y New York, Toronto Summer Music Festival, Music and Beyond Festival Ottawa, Stockholm Concert Hall, National Concert Hall Dublin, Aix-en-Provence, Philharmonie Paris, Palau de la Musica de Valencia, Società dei Concerti di Milano, and Moscow, with tours of Italy and The Netherlands; playing quartets of Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Myaskovsky, Beethoven, Haydn, Wolf - and of course Borodin. Chamber music partners in 2017/18 include Barry Douglas, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Dmitry Masleev, Alexei Volodin, and mezzo soprano Karine Deshayes. The Quartet’s first release on the Onyx label, featuring Borodin, Schubert, Webern and Rachmaninov, was nominated for a Grammy in 2005 in the “Best Chamber Performance” category.

The Borodin Quartet has produced a rich heritage of recordings over several decades, for labels including EMI, RCA and Teldec, including the Complete Beethoven quartets for CHANDOS. The Quartet’s recording of the complete Shostakovich String Quartet Cycle for Decca will be released in August 2018, following the first release in the cycle, a dedicated 70th anniversary CD (of string quartets Nos.1, 8, and 14), released in March 2015.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

National Concert Hall, Dublin with Barry Douglas

November 2017

The famed golden sound of the Borodin String Quartet charmed from the opening double-stops of the Tchaikovsky. If I closed my eyes, it was impossible to tell if the sound was coming from one super instrument or four, so unified was their musical voice. The weaving melodies of the first movement were effortlessly passed from instrument to instrument while the uniform tone was rich and dark – romantic but eschewing any excesses.[...]

The climax came in the second half of the recital with Brahms’ great Piano Quinteta work which went through a complex and lengthy gestation period[...]Striking a good balance between piano and strings, they imbued the opening with great passion. The transition into the major key was meltingly done while the muscular moments were satisfyingly handled. Balshin poured his heart and soul into his cello part, delivering his lines with a searing intensity.

There was warmth to the Andante melody in the second movement while the Scherzo buzzed with energy, its off-beat accents adding to the sense of urgency. Rejoicing in the driving rhythm, one and all ratcheted up the excitement to a frenzied degree. The threads of music hovered mournfully in the air in the opening of the final movement as it built up in intensity in a succession of different keys.

Por Andrew Larkin, Bachtrack

Friends of Chamber Music Vancouver, Vancouver Playhouse

October 2017

It would be difficult to find a more beautiful sound to listen to: impeccable in intonation, rich and fully integrated, with wonderfully refined shape to the lines and a special communication in the voicings[...]the feeling that emerged from these performances is that Shostakovich’s music is less about sharply dramatic emotional responses and more about the subtle and inexorable unfolding of states of mind (some, of course, very dark and disturbing). It was the engulfing sense of conversational flow, plus the remarkable cultivation of the playing, which distinguished these readings from the more acerbic and pointed efforts of the previous Borodins and from even this group two years ago[...]The articulation was not only enticingly suspended but full of delicacy, not least in the gossamer projection of parts of the finale[…]The underlying meaning of each motive was perfectly distilled as the musical fragments passed between the players; the soliloquies for viola and cello went right to the soul. So grippingly personal – you could hear a pin drop at the end.

Geoffrey Newman, Vancouver Classical Music

Friends of Chamber Music Miami, Gusman Concert Hall

February 2017

'The Borodin musicians brought out the originality of Beethoven’s harmonic writing and unexpected curving lines. First violin Ruben Aharonian’s leadership was the group’s tower of strength, his silken tone turning nimble or deeply probing as needed. At times the players’ dynamic gradations and stylistic unity were so subtle that they sounded as one instrument. There was a strong sense of formal structure throughout the entire Beethoven performance with the tempos between and within movements related and crafted as one long musical arc. Cellist Vladimir Balshin and violist Igor Naidin captured the folk inflections in the trio of the second movement. Violinists Aharonian and Sergei Lomovsky channelled both the grace and hard-charging eruptions and darker undertones of the Allegro ma non tanto…The players fully channelled the score’s myriad beauties, drama and unexpected wit'

Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review

Martinů and Schulhoff with Vladimir Jurowski and Staatskapelle Dresden

January 2017

the Moscow Borodin Quartet, which was founded more than seventy years ago…who now contributed their parts perfectly.

Friedbert Streller, Musik in Dresden

Borodin Quartet, which in the seventy years of its existence has continued its reputation as a string quartet of world rank despite the changing line-up, led the solo part very homogeneously, with precision and internal balance.

Ingrid Gerk, Der Neuer Merker

The brilliant Borodin Quartet

Karsten Blüthgen, Feuilleton

The conductor and orchestra were joined by a string quartet. Not just any string Quartet, rather the Borodin Quartet

Morgenpost

Ickinger Frühlings International String Quartet Festival

April 2016

The quartet created an organic flow as if it was just one instrument with sixteen strings. Without forcing their personal interpretative fire and emotions onto [Shostakovich’s string quartet No 11], they let these character pieces speak for themselves, emphasizing their complexity and mournfulness through transparency, […] precise intonation and a subtle balance of sound.
They dynamic differentiation in [Beethoven’s op. 127] didn’t result in brooding fussiness, their playing created once again a lucid sound of almost vitreous, graceful transparency.
It was a play with the classical tradition, perfect, exemplary and on the highest [artistic] level.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Shostakovich Complete String Quartet Cycle: Friends of Chamber Music, Vancouver Playhouse

May 2015

..their coordination and voicings are quite superb. The two violinists have both strength and purity in their playing, but it is the viola and cello that give great warmth to the overall tonal fabric, with notable eloquence and feeling too. It is perhaps the warmth and thoughtfulness of the current group that makes their interpretations seem smoother and more refined than their predecessors.

I found this to be a rare experience: witnessing an ensemble so devoted to the music of their compatriot, and so evidently selfless, sensitive and sure in their presentation of it. Unlike many recent ensembles, they made little attempt at virtuosity for its own sake, yet each quartet emerged as a wonderfully strong and balanced jewel, speaking its message directly and profoundly.

This was truly a ‘journey of a lifetime’. The spirit of Shostakovich was everywhere, his defiance, his tenderness, his sardonic wit, all the little complexities that made up his expression. Nowhere did the Borodin Quartet intervene in the presentation of the story. This was scrupulously prepared but absolutely selfless playing, almost from a different age.

Geoffrey Newman, Seen & Heard International and Vancouver Classical Music

This is a wonderful ensemble, playing at the top of its game.

David Gordon Duke, The Vancouver Sun

USA Autumn Tour

October 2015

[The Borodin Quartet] played with polished professionalism. Ruben Aharonian [lead] a focused reading that was at times playful, at times longing and always fascinating to hear. In the third movement, the melancholy of cellist Vladimir Balshin and violist Igor Naidin blended beautifully with Aharonian and second violin Sergei Lomovsky, providing superb advocacy for a piece that was one of Tchaikovsky’s favorites of all his works. One of the evening’s highlights came in [Borodin’s Notturno] when Aharonian and Lomovsky elicited a gorgeous, organ-like sound that befitted the sanctuary setting. The Borodin Quartet’s sound is rich, dark and deep, and the playing at a high level of technical competency.

(Coral Gables Congregational Church, Friends of Chamber Music Miami) Dave Rosenbaum, Miami Herald

The Borodin performed the familiar melodies of the Notturno with grace, panache and conviction, and their rhythmic freedom was met by their well-crafted homogeneity of tone [...] one of the greatest performances [of Shostakovich’s Eight Quartet]. There were discernible moments of hope through the labyrinth of mental and physical anguish, so properly conveyed in the final Largo. This was music modelled after the composer's heart, realized at a level only few performances attain. From the opening Adagio [of Tchaikovsky Quartet No. 2], the musicians displayed an affinity for the language of late Russian Romanticism, as gorgeous melodies were bound by a tight, visceral rhythmic pulse...a resplendent performance.

(The Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton) Elijah Ho, San Jose Mercury News

[In Shostakovich’s Eight Quartet] the listener is supposed to be overwhelmed. And that is certainly what happened in this performance. Every movement was structured perfectly and so theatrically conveyed by the performers. One could cut the dark tension with a knife. Tchaikovsky’s Second Quartet [showed] the quartet’s ability to form a smooth choir of voices, and their comfortable physical language, which unites them into one single, larger body, and [the] highest level of musicianship. The quartet’s nuanced sounds and capacity for storytelling and mood-setting could transport any listener from earth to heaven and back to earth again. This group’s artistry whets our appetite for more.

(The Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton) Theodora Martin, Peninsula Reviews

Schleswig Holstein Festival: Tchaikovsky’s String Quartettsatz, Quartet No.1 and No.3

August 2015

The 70-year-old Moscow Borodin Quartet changed line-up is still a jewel. The earthy, enormously full and vividly coloured sound from cellist Vladimir Balshin has not lost any of its special charm. With violinists Ruben Aharonian and Sergey Lomovsky and the violist Igor Naidin, they are unsurprisingly four serious Russians, quite at home with composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The orthodox sonorous chorale in the B flat major early work, and above all the broad, rhythmically refined iridescent soundscape of the First String Quartet in D major, were in capable hands. The famous Andante cantabile and the beautiful slow second movement of this First String Quartet, sounded so convincing with the Borodin’s decades of experience and yet completely unsentimental. The shimmering finale fitted perfectly with the bright sunflowers on the stage.

Christian Strehk, Kieler Nachrichten

Perfect unity: they proved from the outset accurate intonation and absolute synchronicity with Tchaikovsky's String Quartettsatz in B flat major. In the Adagio sections of Tchaikovsky's early work and of the String Quartet No. 1 in D major the quartet presented soft interplay of subtle nuances, and especially in the Andante of the latter, that disintegrates slowly in individual voices. The flawless harmony was especially evident in the chorale-like beginning. [...] In contrast to finish, the String Quartet No.3 in E Flat Minor, Op. 30: the particularly crippling funeral march of the third movement led the Borodin Quartet sensitively on to the shimmering, transfigured end.

Wedel-Schulauer Tagblatt

Rheingau Festival, Schloss Johannisberg: Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album and Quartet No.2

August 2015

... spotless playing, enchanting tone, and a vision where everything is going: be it a phrase, a theme, or an entire movement. ... It is simply beautiful how [Tchaikovsky’s] unpretentious and beautiful piece is conveyed in the sold out hall. [...] an ageless, positive contribution to the anniversary.

Christian Knatz, Wiesbadener Kurier

[Children’s Album, arranged by Rotislav Dubinsky] ..the four mature musicians occupied themselves with the little horseman and the illness of the doll, encapsulating the whole innocence of the tiny works – and at the same time got everything out of them phenomenally.

Judith von Sternburg, Frankfurter Rundschau

Wigmore Hall, Shostakovich and Beethoven cycle

April 2016

the Borodin Quartet has maintained stratospherically high standards for seventy unbroken years. The personnel has changed several times, but the solidity of the group’s foundations were made crystal clear this week.

Two Shostakovich quartets – the seventh and the eleventh – allowed them to display their almost preternatural ability to synchronise as though they were one single instrument. Both works inhabit a subfusc sound-world in which solos and duets are underpinned by drones; both seem to emerge from a mist, and to disappear back into it when their tale is told. The way the Borodins told those tales was passionately compelling [...] their performance of Rotislav Dubinsky’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Album for Children was bewitching.

Michael Church, The Independent

Istanbul International Music Festival, Hagia Eirene Museum: Dvorak Piano Quintets

June 2015

Their choice to play Dvorak [Piano Quintets with Boris Berezovsky] showed the kind of superb blend that develops after years of working, touring and recording together [...] their signature tonal sweetness and unity of breath, phrase, insight and interpretive authority have always been maintained. They match each other in every possible sonic way, yet individual solos still retain exquisite luster - especially that of first violinist Aharonian. That impeccable blend and mellifluous tone was immediately apparent right from the start of the first two movements of the Piano Quintet, Opus 5, where the quartet's exemplary long decrescendos down to the micron level melted in the ear. The intonation was so perfect and the expressive élan so compelling [...] Then they jumped into the jolly romp of the third movement, as if on horses cavorting with quirky syncopations through the forests. In the second quintet [...] The Borodin Quartet with Berezovsky, through unanimity of breath and bow, skilfully blended their seasoned elegance with devotional vigour.

Alexandra Ivanoff, Today's Zaman

Pollack Hall, Montreal: Shostakovich and Beethoven

May 2015

...they play Shostakovich better than anyone else. The Borodin played with tremendous intelligence [...] They convey a feeling of force in reserve to be unleashed in the barely audible laser note that ended the first quartet, or the eerie hatchet blows of the next..

Lev Bratishenko, Montreal Gazette

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