Beethoven: String Quartets Opp 59, 95, 132 / Borodin Quartet
Virgin Classics Veritas
Ludwig van Beethoven
Borodin String Quartet
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
The great F-Major Quartet, op. 59/1, is a highlight on the Virgin set: the Borodins take a lyrical, symphonic view with moderate tempos throughout the opening movement. Sforzandos and accents are never harsh; the dolce moments have memorable sweetness. In the Allegretto vivace, the Russian quartet realizes this somewhat unusual tempo marking without artifice or exaggeration, as 16th notes nimbly chase each other around the ensemble, perfectly matched and effortless.
The third movement—Adagio molto e mesto—is played slightly faster and less mesto than many versions. In the bel canto-like section accompanied by pizzicatos, the Borodins achieve a shimmering, translucent sound while the transition to the Thème russe is
particularly well judged.
The op. 95 “Quartetto serioso” finds the Borodins in top form again. They attack the opening Allegro con brio with urgency and energy, expressed vividly through a rich and full-bodied sound. The Borodins are well balanced here; cellist Berlinsky’s playing somewhat more consistent than elsewhere. Transitions between raging 16th notes and the lyrical sections are impressively focused and well integrated. In the Allegretto, Berlinsky’s poised mezza voce perfectly sets up the movement. The Allegro assai is powerful but not heavy handed or strenuous, though I wasn’t quite convinced by the transition from the key change to the Piu allegro, the first violinist’s eighth notes not quite adding up. The Borodins are completely convincing in the final Allegro as they approach Beethoven’s nearly impossible marking of molto leggieremente.
In sum, I might characterize this group of Borodins by using Beethoven’s frequent ma non troppo marking. Their playing is serious, centered, thoughtful, and tonally beautiful; they never play for effect. In a crowded field, they happily occupy a solid middle ground.
– Michael Fine, Fanfare [5/2005], reviewing Virgin 62258 Read less
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