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This is extraordinary ; possibly the finest-ever recordings of one of the greatest string quartet cycles, admittedly without the final two...
Impassioned and lyrical playing, and remarkably good value for money, also. Less edgy and less closely-miked than the at times intimidatingly fierce Emerson Quartet, this digitally-remastered version of a 70s recording is an essential buy for anyone who loves the Bartok Quartets and doesn't know where to start with Shostakovich. There is wit, humour, flawless musicianship and real drive here.
This music is more honest and personal than the symphonies, as well as richer and more harmonically daring. I have not heard a more heart-breakingly sad version of the Eighth, probably his best-known quartet ; immensely moving, even more so than the Fitzwilliam Quartet version. This version of the Eighth makes Barber's Adagio sound like adolescent self-pity ; this is grown-up grief, communicated by master musicians. Yes, I realise this may all sound over-the-top, but this music is serious medicine. I hadn't bought a single CD for three months, and then broke this musical fast with this box. There is enough here for many months ; I'll stop there, but could go on citing stunning moments from this set for many hundred words.
Somewhat shame-faced PS, added much later, to apologise for the rather mean sniping at the Barber Adagio ; it is indeed a fine piece of work, albeit less intense than the later Shostakovich quartets in particular.
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on 15 March 2004
If one wonders why not all 15 Quartets the reason is that the purpose of the set is to present all the Shostakovich performances by the original members of the Borodin Quartet. By the early 1970's two members had left prior to recording the last 2.
Another clarification should also be made. The 2003/2004 edition of the Penguin Guide To Compact Discs lists these recordings as mono. They are definately Stereo. Makes one wonder if the editors of the guide actually listen to the stuff they review.
These are intense and often powerful performances of perhaps the composer's most personal works. The Borodin's do not try to soften the impact as some recent recordings have but fully enter into the often unsettling soundscape that the composer adapted. Shostakovich's scoring is so tight that at times one would think there are more than four players and the Borodin's often create that illusion. These recordings from Melodyia have appeared on EMI but those transfers varied from good to barely acceptable. These new remasterings are very good and are a vast improvement over the prior issue. If you want a cd of quartets nos. 14 and 15 to be complete I would recommend a recording on Le Chant Du Monde (ASIN: B00004YU9C)by the Russian Glinka and Beethoven Quartets. Like the Borodin Quartet they both had a close reationship with the composer and the performances and recording are very good. Between the 3 of them you will expierence a level of true music making that is all too often being replaced by a fixation with technique and wardrobe. Go for the real thing.
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on 26 April 2011
I have trawled through many cd versions of these string 4tets by various 4tets and can candidly offer the opinion that this Borodin cycle knocks spots off any of the opposition. They outshine the later cycle recorded for virgin even though missing a couple of the later 4tets.

The performances keep you on the edge of your seat, driving and dynamic - they are so convincing they make you look over your shoulder in case Stalin's heavies may come knocking on the door at anytime. The paranoia, fear and anxiety especially in the classic 8th are conveyed to full effect. In contrast the lighter aspects are also beautifully and skillfully played.

This is not a 'safe' recording, its sharp, grainy, highly musical and above all exciting. Highly recommended.
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on 5 October 2012
I share the enthusiasm of the other reviewers in the quality of the performances; they are simply the finest available. However there is an important fact that the other reviews omit which I believe needs to be mentioned. These recordings were made by Melodiya in the 1960s and the master tapes presumably are languishing in their Moscow vaults. The present issue from Chandos are direct copies of LPs which were in the possession of the wife of the late 1st violinist Rostislav Dubinsky who did record for Chandos in his Western Career. There is no mention of this fact in the documentation that accompanies the set. Whilst Chandos have impeccable taste, I can't help feeling a bit cheated by record companies who transfer historical material not owned by themselves from end-user media like 78s and LPs onto CD and make no mention of this. This is something I could do myself with the LP set and a CD burner. Indeed, is this practice even legal? There is no agreement between Chandos and Melodiya for the former to distribute the latter's recordings. And whilst, the transfers are well done, I'd still recommend getting the original HMV/Melodiya box set of LPs which in this instance obviously cannot be inferior to the CDs which they are copied from. The LP set fairly regularly pops up on Internet sites and listening to this will undoubtedly be a more musical experience.
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on 19 October 2015
Since I regard much troubled in life Shostakovich as one of the best composers of the 20 century, the acquisition from Amazon of the complete recordings of his String Quarters, played by the renown Borodin Quartet, has been one of my great joys this year.
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on 25 April 2016
These were a gift to a musical nephew, who is delighted with them
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on 15 September 2015
Genius. Compare with Springsteen's Nebraska
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on 21 September 2011
Many great composers wrote their - arguably - finest music as chamber music : Schubert , Brahms , Dvorak and Chostakovitch . Certainly their most " personal" music .
As to this recording : since I saw the Borodin Quartet live , I haven't heard these superb string quartets better played than by these gentlemen . You really hear the composer through theit four instruments . Easy listening it certainly isn't , but then you cannot say that Chostakovitch has had an easy life .
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on 24 January 2010
I'm shocked that this astonishing music is, essentially, being sold at bin-end prices.

Shostakovich redefined the string quartet, and he may have been forced to do so. I love his 5th Symphony; but every time I listen to it, I can't help but remember that it's "a Soviet artist's creative response to justified criticism."

None of Stalin's little clique of violent gangsters would have even noticed the odd string quartet here and there. These are, occasionally, very odd string quartets. My favourite is the 13th, which is very odd indeed.

If you've ever heard Shostakovich and enjoyed his music: you need to buy this set.
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on 27 October 2009
my grandson was over the moon with the cd, it was just what he wanted.
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