Moscow String Quartet

Borodin: Chamber Music

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Beyond all argument, Alexander Borodin was one of the great composers of late 19th century Russia. He was also one of the great Russian chemists of his time, and his day job prohibited him from turning out much music, just as his early death stopped him from completing much of it. This three-disc set of Borodin's chamber music includes one masterpiece -- the Second String Quartet -- one near masterpiece -- the First String Quartet -- and many early pieces with little character or intrinsic worth. Compared with the glorious melodies, heartfelt harmonies, vigorous rhythms, and masterful construction of the two string quartets, the piano quintet, string quintet, string sextet, and three trios are merely well put together compositional exercises. These performances are not particularly attractive. The Moscow String Quartet is neither tight nor especially together, and the tone is lean and edgy where it should be rich and warm. The various other Moscow groups performing the remainder of the works are not convincing. Fans who have to have everything by Borodin will want to try this set, but general listeners are directed to the Borodin Quartet's virtually definitive 1980 recordings of the string quartets.

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