Most Helpful First | Newest First
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic performances,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) (Audio CD)I agree with the other reviewer. There are too many superlatives that one could use to review this set. The music is made to sound both ravishing and frightening. These performances are among the very best that are available on recorded format, if not THE very best, and are something of a reference work because the Borodins worked so closely with Shostakovich throughout his life, and the composer shared many exclusive insights with them. In fact, the Borodins frequently performed Shostakovich's Piano Quintet with Shostakovich himself at the piano, and there was a very famous concert that they all gave of that work in Gorky in 1964 which was the composer's last public peformance as a pianist. People in the audience cried, hugged each other and held hands as Shostakovich walked off stage. The Borodins' recordings were the first publicly available recordings of the quartets in many countries, including USSR, Germany, USA and Japan, and Shostakovich wrote to them in December 1964 after hearing recorded performances by them and said "Accept my deep gratitude for your superb performance of my quartets." That is certainly a top recommendation!! The Borodin Quartet here is the second reformation of the quartet. The second reformed quartet was established in 1972 and had 2 members from the original band - Shebalin (viola) and Berlinsky (cello). The original Quartet undertook a complete recording of the Shostakovich quartets but only got to quartet 13. All of their recordings are available in an excellent set that has been issued by Chandos, who have remastered them. It is much admired. The complete set recorded by the second reformed Quartet (all 15 quartets) is what is reissued here. These recordings date from 1978 to 1983. They have long been quite difficult to get. Melodiya had previously issued them as a complete set, but that went out of production quite a while ago, and as a result that issue is now at a premium price (if you can get it). This new reissue is the same set, and I expect will probably be snapped up by Shostakovich enthusiasts pretty quickly. It is interesting to note the differences between the way the 2 quartets perform the works - there are some interesting differences of tempi and colour. The new Melodiya issue is excellently recorded and the sound quality is superb, very warm and immediate throughout. Included is the Piano Quintet, with Sviatoslav Richter at the piano, who also collaborated with Shostakovich. That is a live recording from the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in 1983. There is also the little known early work Two Pieces for String Octet opus 11 (played with the Prokofiev Quartet). The packaging of the new Melodiya set is a bit of a surprise - it is made from cardboard and resembles a mini pizza box!! Quite charming in its own way, and I suspect will add to the collectability of the set if kept in good condition. It does suit the theme of the artwork - the Russian abstractist Malevitch. Makes a change from all the heavy non-environmentally friendly plastic we get in the West! The notes are very good indeed, very full and informative, translated from the original Russian. Each work gets a mini essay (except the opus 11 work, which gets no mention, which is a shame and is the only grumble I have but its not much of a grumble). I already have the original Borodin Quartet recordings as well as the Fitzwilliam's super set, and the Eder Quartet's recordings on Naxos, which I also think are excellent. I welcome this new reissue and recommend it completely. As the last reviewer said, grab it while you can as it wont be around for long. When you get it, sit back and wallow!!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS is THE SET you WANT!,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) (Audio CD)First, as an interesting note on these recordings, they keep appearing and disappearing from the catalogue, and also change labels! One of those things that makes you go "hmmmmmm" for sure!
Originally available on Melodiya Dmitri Shostakovich: Complete String Quartets (20 bit Remaster), then released on EMI Shostakovich - Complete String Quartets, and apparently afterwards on BMG (although I have not actually seen this release personally), and now, again on Melodiya!
Further, the Borodin Quartet has recorded these works "complete" twice....the first time in the years 1967-1971 and consist of only the first 13 as those were the only ones composed and published at that point in time. This first set has also jumped around some and currently can be found on Chandos Historical Shostakovich: String Quartets 1-13.
(A history of the Borodins follows, so if you should not be interested in it, skip to the review, following the asterisks below).
Originally formed in 1945 it was known as the Moscow Conservatoire Quartet, its members were: Rostislav Dubinsky and Nina Barshai on first and second violins and Rudolf Barshai on viola, and Mstislav Rostropovich on cello. After only a short time, Rostropovich withdrew from the group and was replaced with Valentin Berlinsky.
In 1946 the group first became acquainted with Shostakovich and began interpreting his works. Over the years they became close to the composer, and had first hand insight into these works through that direct association with him. They became the most revered group in the Communist era, and had the distinction of playing at both the funerals of Stalin and Prokofiev (who both passed away on the same day in 1953). Also in that year, Nina Barshai and Rudolf Barshai retired and Yaroslav Alexandrov took her place as second violinist, and Dmitri Shebalin took over as violist. In 1955 they adopted the name Borodin Quartet after the famous composer who was known as the father of Russian chamber music. In the mid 1970's they were in upheaval with the defection of Dubinsky and the retirement of Alexandrov, and thus Berlinsky insisted that they find replacements and withdraw from performances and practice for two years until they had recaptured the sound of the original group. The changes were Mikhail Kopelman first violin and Andrei Abremenkov on second violin.
And so, these recordings, done between 1978 and 1983 were recorded with this lineup: Mikhail Kopelman, 1st violin; Andrei Abramenkov, 2nd violin; Dimitri Shebalin, viola; and Valentin Berlinsky, cello, who played with the group for 62 years, retiring in 2007.
Today the Borodin Quartet are the players: Ruben Aharonian, 1st violin; Andrei Abramenkov, 2nd violin; Igor Naidin, viola; and Vladimir Balshin, cello.
There are currently at least 9 sets of Shostakovich's string quartets available. I am familiar with the following sets: the Fitzwilliam's, the Brodsky's, the Emerson's, and the two sets by the Borodin's.
To sort of "clear the air" right at the start here, I will say that while all these sets are fine, and highly recommendable, I think that the First Qualification to play these pieces with Full Authority, Full Feeling, you MUST be Russian, and lived through Shostakovich's time. And so, this brings us down to the two sets by the Borodin's, and the First of those (as truly Excellent as it is) must be discounted as it is not complete, leaving this set as the Strongest Contender for First Place. Now, that said, that does not mean other sets do not or would not have their place in one's collection, and this is a matter of personal taste or a favorite quartet perhaps that one would wish to have on their shelves in addition to this, the most authoritative of the "complete" ones. If you can afford to have two sets by the Borodins, by all means grab the first set too, it in many ways (except for missing #'s 14 and 15) beats out this second set being reviewed here.
Again, don't get me wrong, I love the Fitzwilliam and the Brodsky sets, and am fond of the Emersons, but these guys are NOT Russians and I feel a lack of expression and fear and anger in their playing--one needed to know first hand, I think, the terror present in those times that Shostakovich and others lived under in order to play this music correctly.
Listen here to the 8th...the RAGE that only a person who had Lived There could express. People and musicians from the West cannot possibly know the levels of fear and anger that these people lived under 24/7 under Stalin and later Khrushchev and Brezhnev, and the KGB, etc. These performances by the Borodins will set a shadow over all others once you have heard them play this music. Also, the Quintet for Piano, op 57, featuring Sviatoslav Richter, played live at the Moskow Conservatory, where Shostakovich and the Beethoven Quartet premiered the piece together in 1940, is no less than spectacular, and authoritative to say the least! You will love this GREAT set, and I would urge anyone to get a copy before it has "gone away again"! As a parting thought, the sound is a little dry, but with the level of playing from these "closest friends" of Shostakovich himself, you will easily overlook this minor quibble.
I will mention one other set, and that is the Sorrel on Chandos, which has been given high marks by a great many reviewers and listeners. As yet I am unfamiliar with this set, but am greatly curious about it with the acclaim it has been getting. I have it on my shopping list, but seek feedback perhaps from those who either have it or have heard it. ~operabruin
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The meaning of authentic performance,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) (Audio CD)D. Shostakovich: Complete Quartets
I first met Shostakovich's string quartets through the collection of DG with the Emerson quartet. I loved them immediately. Members of Emerson quartet are fine musicians. And they did their homework. For example in page 23 of the booklet Philip Setzer says that Harlow Robinson (a Shostakovich scholar) told him that the three terrifying chords at the opening of the fourth movement of the eighth quartet was a common signal that KGB had entered the room. So we have four qualified musicians, skilled, with emotional intelligence and with passion. But they have a disadvantage. They did not live there. Members of Borodin quartet lived there. And they have rage. How can any western musician have the experience of those people. Listening to Borodin's performance made me forget everything else.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for any Art Music and Shostakovich fan...,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) (Audio CD)What can I say? If you can only buy one set of Shostakovich string quartets this, in my humble opinion, is it. Melodiya have done a nice job remastering this incredible set. Buy it before it disappears once again.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-Stoppingly Beautiful,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) (Audio CD)Not too much too add to the above reviews except that these recordings affected me deeply!! I urge you to buy this issue while its still around "superior music making"
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) (Audio CD)These are stunning performances of the Shostakovich quartets, with a technical and emotional maturity that would be hard to better.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great set,
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) (Audio CD)This is a fantastic set. I had look all over to find it as it is not available in America for less than a couple hundred bucks. The packaging is well done and the booklet is very informative. Quartets are performed very well and my favorites (as they have been for years) are 4, 7 and 8. This is a must have for those who like Shostakovich's music.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three works are live recordings; notes troubled,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) (Audio CD)Not a review of the performances, just VERY basic background on the recordings.
The following from this set are live recordings:
Not only, as some have noted already, P5t Op.57 (Mosc. Con. ix.83);
but also S4t no. 6 Op. 101 (Mosc. Con. ix.81);
and S4t no. 9 Op. 117 (Mosc. Con. ix.81).
To many it will make no difference, but I at least like to be told (and wasn't in this case until I had the individual paper sleeves in my hands). There are simply too many recordings of academic/art music that fail to highlight that they're live (witness Gurrelieder, Buch mit sieben Siegeln).
Listeners will notice the live element (autumnal/COPD coughs and other audible respiratory manifestations, both from [seemingly] and beyond the stage), but nonetheless good recordings, as well they might be, stemming from the 1980s.
One other thing to note is the notes themselves: these have been translated out of the Russian by, well, a troika of other Russians. Far from best practice, and has rendered them barely fit for purpose, with a deal of wordsmithing. Appealing if you're in the mood, but requires indulgence. They're also largely devoid of pertinent historical/biographical background; as other reviewers have implied, Gestus is all.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet) by Borodin Qt (Audio CD - 2006)