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Borodin Quartet

Chamber Ensemble

  • The final sunset that the Borodins conjoured here was possessed of an almost supernatural radiance
    The Independent
  • 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
  • For more than sixty-five 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.

    The Borodin Quartet’s particular affinity with Russian repertoire was stimulated by a close relationship with Shostakovich, who personally supervised its study of each of his quartets. Widely regarded as definitive interpretations, the Quartet’s cycles of the complete Shostakovich quartets have been performed all over the world, including Vienna, Zurich, Frankfurt, Madrid, Lisbon, Seville, London, Paris and New York. 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. Ten years later, it changed its name from the Moscow Philharmonic Quartet to the Borodin Quartet. The current members of the Quartet are Ruben Aharonian, Sergey Lomovsky, Igor Naidin and Vladimir Balshin.

    In addition to performing quartets, the members of the Borodin Quartet regularly join forces with other distinguished musicians to further explore the chamber music repertoire. Their partners have included Yuri Bashmet, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Oleg Maisenberg and Ludmila Berlinskaya. The Quartet also regularly gives master-classes.

    Recent and future engagement include recitals in Madrid, Rotterdam, Chicago, Brussels, Geneva, Munich, Lisbon, Barcelona, Athens, Köln, Istanbul, Zurich, Berlin, Moscow, Montreal, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and London, playing the music of Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Shostakovich – and of course Borodin.

    The Quartet’s first release on the Onyx label, featuring Borodin, Schubert, Webern and Rachmaninov, was nominated for a Grammy in the 2005 “Best Chamber Performance” category. The Borodin Quartet has produced a rich heritage of recordings over several decades, for labels including EMI, RCA and Teldec.

    Among its Teldec recordings, those of Tchaikovsky’s Quartets and Souvenir de Florence, Schubert’s String Quintet, Haydn’s Seven The Seven Last Words of Christ and a disc of Russian miniatures all received acclaim.

    The Tchaikovsky disc was honoured with a Gramophone Award in 1994. The CD label Chandos recorded and released the complete Beethoven quartets as part of the sixtieth anniversary celebration. 

    • Perelman Theater Kimmel Center Philadelphia: Shostakovich & Beethoven
      April 2013

      The Borodin musicians are Russian royalty [...] This ensemble has, in its collective experience, accompanied virtually the entire span of the Shostakovich quartets from their inception to the present. So they are not in this sense "discovering" Shostakovich, as the West still is. He is already a classic for them, and listening to their Andante of the Fifth [...] I found myself thinking suddenly, "Why, this is as beautiful as Schubert!" Certainly that is one experience one does not have every day with Shostakovich. A part of the Borodin's achievement is its fully integrated sound, although each of its musicians (particularly first violinist Ruben Aharanian and cellist Vladimir Balshin) stands out as an extraordinary artist.[...] The Borodin gave it a tightly focused performance that brought the audience to its feet. Let's not wait 15 years to invite them back again.
      Robert Zaller, Broad Street Review Music & Opera
    • Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary
      March 2013

      “Compared to young North American quartets, whose playing often tends to sound the way high definition TV looks, the Borodin Quartet presents a very difference tonal pallate and approach to the making of music. Fundamentally, they do not play to the maximum dynamic at every opportunity; rather, they cultivate every possible shading of the sound in the medium soft to very soft range, something that encourages the listener to come to the music. The first half of the program was devoted to the middle of the three Razumovsky quartets by Beethoven […] This is music that shows off what the Borodin quartet does best, the subtle harmonic shifts and textures beautifully rendered, with melody everywhere. This is, I suspect, the result of a group that has lived long with this music and has taken the trouble to penetrate its secrets. This was a deeply satisfying performance of this beautiful, inward music, giving ample testimony to why the Borodin Quartet continues to occupy the top rungs of the string quartet world.”
      Calgary Herald
    • Toronto Walter Hall: Tchaikovsky, Glinka & Borodin
      July 2012

      [...] once the bows touched their instruments, the musical glow was pure gold. The Moscow-based Borodin Quartet, the oldest string quartet in existence, is one of the world’s finest as well as being the authority on Russian chamber music. [...] Most notable in the performances by violinists Ruben Aharonian and Sergei Lomosky, violist Igor Naidin and cellist Vladimir Balshin was how they managed to carefully meld control, balance and expression. There wasn’t a hint of exaggerated effect in any note of this Romantic music, yet every emotional nuance was present and accounted for. Also impressive was the seamlessness with which the four players shared musical ideas, allowing a motif to slide from instrument to instrument almost telepathically. [...] Although none of the original members of the quartet is around any more, its gradual renewal means that, through the process of younger players working with older ones, the original ideas on interpretation have, hopefully, filtered down to the present day. Is this how Dmitri Shostakovich heard them play 60 years ago? If so, it explains how the founding members could have inspired so much wonderful work from his pen. Most remarkable was the oneness and the inner fire of each interpretation — something that can only be achieved through years of performing, travelling and rehearsing together every day. It’s well worth catching these four serious artists and their Russian musical gems while they’re here.
      John Terauds, Musical Toronto
    • Music and Beyond Festival Ottawa: Brahms & Tchaikovsky
      July 2012

      Have you ever promised yourself a lazy afternoon plucked from a busy schedule, let’s say during a music festival? And has something come along that you just couldn’t pass up, like another concert by the Borodin String Quartet at Domininon-Chalmers? After hearing them doing the first quartets of Tchaikovsky and Brahms Friday evening, I was more than willing to forego my Sunday afternoon to hear them play the second quartet of each composer. I didn’t regret it, and that’s a fact. Once again I was awestruck by their extraordinary technical standards and their even higher musicality. How an ensemble can lend a Tchaikovskian feeling to Brahms without straying from the notes just as Brahms wrote them is a wonder. It was hardly surprising that their rendition of the Tchaikovsky Second Quartet was beyond praise.
      Richard Todd, The Ottawa Citizen
    • Commemorating 09/11 in Montréal’s New Hall Maison symphonique de Montréal:  Beethove
      November 2011

      The Borodin played the 45-minute work [Beethoven String Quartet No. 15 in A minor] with astonishing ease but serious intent. Its balance was flawless and each instrument had a distinctive voice that infused the dialogue among them. The Quartet performed the four outer movements in a clear, singing, almost cryptic style. The central “Heiliger Dankgesang”, with its three hymn-like sections interspersed with two lighter sections bearing rays of hope, offered agile trills from the first violin, heartfelt resonance from the cello, mellow tones from the viola and profound engagement among all the musicians. The Quartet tore into the final rondo which it rendered with extraordinary virtuosity. The overall sound of the performance was clear and precise but dry. In thinking that this dryness was due to the hall’s acoustics, however, I was proven wrong by the Shostakovich which showed them to be clear and reverberant. Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 15 in E-flat minor was the composer’s last quartet and it is the most deeply felt and anguished of the fifteen. Its six movements are played without a break and are marked Adagio except for the fifth which is Adagio molto. Shostakovich instructed that the first movement be played “so that flies drop dead in mid-air and the audience leaves the hall out of sheer boredom.” I can assure you that no flies dropped dead last night (we would have heard them hit the stage floor) and no one walked out. The mournful intensity and sheer silken beauty of the first movement (“Elegy”) kept patrons riveted to their seats. The shearing shrieks from the violins and viola in the second movement (“Serenade”) could have raised the dead. Throughout, the Quartet sustained tight tension and control that drew the audience into the heart of the composer’s world of anguish and sorrow. The playing in this quartet, although still transparent and hypnotizing, had greater depth than in the Beethoven. The musicians leaned into their instruments, drawing deeper, profounder sounds that filled the hall with a warmer resonance. The darkened hall (except for the musicians’ reading lamps draped with black cloth) contributed to the sense of loss and tragedy that permeated the performance right up to the despairing morendo of the final movement. A spokesperson for the OSM, in her opening remarks to the audience, noted that the Quartet had requested that applause be withheld until the end of the program and after the house lights went up. Nevertheless, this request was ignored.
      Montreal - The Classic Music Network -
    • Haydn String Quartets op33/1-6 CD, ONYX4069
      May 2011

      The latest incarnation of the Borodin Quartet offer them in readings that are remarkable for their consistency of tone and security of technique. They rattle off the fast movements with elan, and serve slow movements well with their rapt concentration...
      This hugely enjoyable set confirms my impression that the current line-up of the Borodin Quartet is the best ever....'Fine playing, fine style, fine recording' my notes say about the very first movement, and so it goes on...What I like most about the set is the way it makes Haydn's invention leap off the page.
      The Strad 'Recommends'
      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
      There is so much that is satisfying in their playing
      BBC Radio 3
      The slower passages…are tremendous
      Norman Lebrecht, La Scena Musicale***
      Neglected unfairly in favour of Haydn's symphonies, these are entertaining works, and the Borodins do manage to tone down their muscular style so as not to lose sight of Haydn's humour. There are laugh-aloud moments here - the baffling 'is it over yet' close of the 2nd, composed to tease audiences into applauding in the wrong place, is disconcerting and fascinating, as you find yourself counting the beats in order to avoid being wrong-footed. The end, when it does arrive, is strangely inconclusive.These are big-boned, loveable performances, with rhythms so clearly defined and sharply pointed that there's never any suggestion of heaviness.
      The Arts Desk
      I would be very hard-pressed to find any quartet on the CDs at hand where the Borodin Quartet is less than fully committed to bringing out the energy, expressiveness, ingenuity and overall beauty of each quartet. Their sound is somewhat leaner, their touch somewhat lighter, than that of some other quartets; listeners seeking the spirit of historically informed performances but the sound of modern instruments should be very satisfied. Every movement is praiseworthy
      Joe Milicia, Enjoy the
    • Wigmore Hall:  Beethoven, Shostakovich & Schnittke
      December 2010

      3. Best chamber moment The Borodin Quartet proved that decades of experience really count in their performance of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Schnittke at Wigmore Hall on January 9.
      Top 10 Classical music moments of 2010, The Telegraph
    • Alice Tully Hall:  Brahms & Tchaikovsky
      May 2010

      [...] throughout the concert, the Borodin players were extreme- ly mature, measured, and musical. Their sound was neither too plump nor too thin. They showed an exceptional rhythmic sense, knowing how to wait on the music, and on one another. In technique, [...] Where Brahms asks for singing, they sang. They sang well as individuals and as a group. The first violinist, Ruben Aharonian, played with great confidence, a confidence well earned. And I will make a specific comment about the last movement: It was a model of strength in lyricism, and of resoluteness [...] What could be better than real musicians playing real music?
      Jay Nordlinger, New York chronicle
    • Sydney City Recital Hall: Shostakovich & Borodin
      March 2010

      The Borodin Quartet's inscrutable intonation and balance captured this comic-tragic quality to perfection. Each phrase is shaped to bring out its musical essence, yet nothing is ever exaggerated and Shostakovich's double-sided message emerges with beauty and unvarnished clarity. The 13th quartet brings despair much more into the open. Written in a single movement with intriguing rhythmic modulation, the ending gives the impression that the unifying pulse that has remained present during both fast and slow music throughout is gradually ceasing, and time starts standing still. At one point Shostakovich's rhythmic games require some of the players to tap the body of their instrument with the bow tip. The sporadic recurrence of this at the end from second violinist Andrei Abramenkov might make you want to check your pacemaker as Igor Naidin unravels the final viola melody. By contrast, Borodin's String Quartet No. 2 might be seen to have just a single meaning and is touching for its unalloyed sunniness. Again, what one values about a masterly group like the Borodin Quartet is its focus on pure musical virtues – excellent phrasing, balance, careful listening and impeccable intonation. In the much-loved Notturno, cellist Vladimir Balshin played the opening melody with beautiful simplicity, allowing the tone to swell enough to glow but not to distort, while violinist Ruben Aharonian answered with disciplined reserve that accentuated the work's sweetness.
      Peter McCallum, The Sydney Morning Herald
    • Wigmore Hall Recital
      January 2010

      The Borodin Quartet at the Wigmore Hall was in a class of its own playing Shostakovich and Schnittke. Restraint and clarity might be virtues, but they don't take you far without sensuous appeal. This the Borodin Quartet offered in abundance, especially in the "Renaissance" moments in the Schnittke, which had a rapt beauty.
      The Telegraph
      Watching them in this quartet was a little like scrutinising Shostakovich’s own face for tell-tale signs of disquiet. Many colours were deployed here in traversing the wastelands of his soul but none more telling than the soft, still voice of consolation heard high in the cello in the approach to the glowing postlude. The final sunset that the Borodins conjoured here was possessed of an almost supernatural radiance.
      The Independent
      Most wondrously of all, and even in the bleak 'musical suicide note' of the Eighth, the Borodin Quartet plays with uncommonly rich, even tone and consoling warmth. For sheer musical presence, it has few equals.
      The Sunday Telegraph
      In the dark despair of the Quartet No. 8, the players never resorted to steely tone or slashing intensity. Everything had a deep and understated gravity, as though they were exploring the most private corners of the human soul – appropriately so, if Shostakovich was really contemplating suicide in this music, as some claim. The Borodin’s performance ascended to its summit not with dogged persistence but a magisterial command of the intellectual strength needed for the journey – the result, no doubt, of six decades of experience.
      Financial Times
    • 92nd Street Y New York, Shostakovich, Stravinsky & Borodin
      January 2009

      But if the Borodin Quartet that played at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday evening was not the same group that played for Shostakovich, it closed its program with a stunning performance of that composer’s Third Quartet (Op. 73). This work, from 1946, begins with a bouncy innocence and darkens with each movement, descending to mournful desolation in the penultimate Adagio and becoming an enveloping elegy in the finale. The quartet’s sound reflected this journey, beginning with a relatively light tone and moving through stages of astringency and intensity. The group began with the Quartet No. 1 in A by its namesake, a graceful score without the kind of baggage that Shostakovich brought to his work, but also without the depth. It didn’t matter: by giving it a lush sound, occasional touches of portamento and lavishing attention on its dynamics, particularly in the winding lines of its slow finale, the players made the work hard to resist. Between the Borodin and Shostakovich quartets, Stravinsky’s brief Concertino made an almost perfect palate cleanser. Its acerbic opening prefigures that quality in Shostakovich’s music, although in Stravinsky it seems more a rhetorical stance than deeply felt expressivity. And in no time it melts into a stretch of rich late Romanticism before Stravinsky remembers himself and ends on a slightly sour chord.
      Allan Kozinn, New York Times
    • Israel Festival Jerusalem Theater:  All Russian Programme Borodin, Miaskovsky & Shostakovich
      June 2007

      Borodin, better known for his theatrical, folk-music-inspired opera "Prince Igor" in his "Quartet Nr. 2," turned out to be more introverted and lyrical than expected, agreeably yet not conventionally Romantic, and not demonstratively Russian in style; so too with Miaskovsky's "Quartet Nr. 13." One felt definitely enriched by this welcome opportunity to become acquainted with these works. The program's highlight, though, was Shostakovich's "Quartet Nr. 8." The rendition of this magical work was nothing less than overwhelming. The degree of intensity, maturity and sensitivity achieved by these outstanding musicians was profoundly gripping, and created a rarely encountered musical experience.
      Ury Eppstein, The Jerusalem Post
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