Borodin Quartet

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets

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This set of Beethoven string quartets by the Borodin Quartet reflects a mature perspective on the works. It's not that it lacks energy -- the Vivaces are vivacious and the Allegros have plenty of brio -- but it has wisdom and a maturity not generally characteristic of performances by younger quartets. These performances are comparable with the Budapest Quartet's last set of the quartets. The groups have more than richness of tone in common; they have a long history, both with the music and with each other, and the sympathetic understanding of their playing is unrivaled, particularly in the middle and later period quartets. The Borodin's searing Adagio molto e mesto from Op. 59/1, or their deeply moving Lento assai from Op. 135 show them at their best. Less appealing to some, perhaps, will be their early period quartets. It's not that the Borodin Quartet doesn't grasp the soul of the music; a more beautifully played account of the D major Quartet, Op. 18/3, is hard to imagine. It's that their performances seem to be recollections rather than embodiments of the work's emotions. The Borodin cycle may not be the first choice for every listener, but it should certainly appeal to some. Chandos' digital sound is sumptuous.

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