The Borodin Quartet, the legendary ensemble dubbed by the UK Telegraph as ‘the world’s greatest string quartet’ returns to Australia under the auspices of Musica Viva, performing masterpieces by Haydn, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Wolf, paired with intimate insights into the music of Shostakovich.
Few ensembles have sustained their position at the epitome of performance over so many decades. The quartet was formed in 1945 when four students in Professor Terian’s chamber music class at the Moscow Conservatorium formed a quartet. Now approaching its 75th anniversary, the group’s individual players have changed, but each has embraced the unique history and famous sound of this remarkable institution. Violinists Ruben Aharonian and Sergey Lomovsky, violist Igor Naidin and cellist Vladimir Balshin have inherited an esteemed tradition of interpretation and performance which they take into the future.
From its early days, the Borodin Quartet has been connected to Dmitri Shostakovich. Founding violist Rudolph Barshai boldly rang him up in 1946, when they were all still students, saying the musicians of the quartet loved his first quartet and wanted to play it to him. From then on, the Borodins worked closely with Shostakovich.
The 15 quartets by Shostakovich remain at the heart of the group’s repertoire, and they were among the first to perform them as a cycle, recording the first 13 in 1967-71. On this tour, Shostakovich’s Ninth Quartet forms the centrepiece of Program One, flanked by Haydn’s op 33 no 1 and the thirteenth quartet of Beethoven. Shostakovich finished the first version of his Ninth Quartet in the autumn of 1961. Depressed and quoting an ‘attack of healthy self-criticism’, he burnt his manuscript in the stove. It took him nearly three years to write another version, his ‘second’ Ninth Quartet completed only in 1964.
Program Two opens with Tchaikovsky’s glorious first quartet and the Italian Serenade of Hugo Wolf, closing with Shostakovich’s final – and longest – Quartet no 15, much of it written from a hospital bed in Moscow. He famously remarked to the Taneyev Quartet, who premiered the work, “Play the first movement so that flies drop dead mid-air.” The music is breathtakingly spare, but clad in a stark beauty with everything but its expressive power has been stripped away.
Members of the Quartet will also mentor talented students at masterclasses in Melbourne and Sydney. Members of the public are welcome to attend. Details.
BORODIN QUARTET: Ruben Aharonian, violin/ Sergei Lomovsky, violin/ Igor Naidin, viola/ Vladimir Balshin, cello
PROGRAM ONE (6 October)
HAYDN String Quartet in B minor, op 33 no 1
SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartet no 9 in E-flat major, op 117
BEETHOVEN String Quartet no 13 in B-flat major, op 130
PROGRAM TWO (1 October)
TCHAIKOVSKY String Quartet no 1
WOLF Italian Serenade
SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartet no 15 in E-flat minor, op 144