String Quartet movement in B flat
String Quartet no. 1 in D ; 2 in F ; 3 in E flat minor
Souvenir de Florence for string sextet.
Borodin String Quartet with
Genrikh Talalyan ( second viola) and Mstiislav Rostropovich (second cello).
How much better are Tchaikovsky's string quartets than his symphonies, ballets
and orchestral scores. His songs are almost perfection although the Second
Quartet is not successful. There is more intimacy and beauty in the first
and third quartets than, say, in the Romeo and Juliet Overture.
The String Quartet movement in B flat dates from 1865 and seems to be based
on Ukrainian folk melodies. It is not very original or mature. The String
Quartet no.1 may be the first important quartet written by a Russian composer
and it is an almost perfect creation. The performance of the opening
Moderato e semplice is a sheer delight. I have often wondered why
the famous second movement, the Andante cantabile, has become so popular
when the whole quartet is at the same level of beauty. The mellow tones of
the Borodin Quartet is very refreshing. It is truly a lovely performance
and very rewarding... tender, dolce, immaculately played and communicates
instantly and with great effect. It has the charm and grace ot Mendlessohn
although David Nice in his sleeve notes falsely suggests Schubert. No, a
greater than Schubert is here!
Although I have serious reservations about Tchaikovsky he did employ musical
form and modulation in his work whereas Schubert did not. He did not have
a clue. Take, as an example, the opening movement of Schubert's Fifth Symphony.
How many times does that main theme appear and it is always in B flat. It
never modulates; It never develops. Very poor craftsmanship. It is stupid
to compare a great work or great composer with an inferior one.
The andante cantabile begins as if it were the sound of a church organ
in this glowing account. The Borodins avoid sentimentality and have exactly
the right tempi... just perfect. The other great thing about Tchaikovsky
was that he could write convincing slow movements. The scherzo is expertly
judged and the finale is wonderfully warm.. observe the glorious tone of
the viola. Sensational! The performance is very professional but not clinical.
The works ends with a moment or two of stupid immaturity by Tchaikovsky just
before a rousing coda.
The Quartet no. 2 suffers from emotionalism and is rather poor. Sad, gypsy-like
music pervades the opening and the Moderato section has a simple,
banal theme. When it is high in the first violin it has a shrill sinister
connotation. But the music stops and starts too much for me.The scherzo also
has an inane theme. And the third movement, which is another slow movement,
is full of nauseous emotion in the Elgar vein. It has one or two fine moments
but at 12 and an half minutes it is too long! The finale opens with a unison
passage and its main theme is also somewhat daft. It is diffcult to say whether
this quartet is banal or puerile. And we have a fugue. It is a work that
is too self-indulgent for the public to adequately respond to. And, for the
musical detective, you will hear traces of the Fourth and Sixth symphonies
and, for the very discerning, Away in a manager. William Kirkpatrick would
not have been pleased.
The Third Quartet is a masterpiece. Elegiac in character, immediate in
communication, perfectly played. Here Tchaikovsky combines the classical
lines of the First Quartet with the emotional content of the Second but without
the banality. It is difficult... no, it is impossible to put into words any
exact description of this very fine acheivement. It has everything., absolutely
everything. It has tenderness, compassion, depth, warmth, power and excitement
and it teems with melodious ideas beautifully worked and developed. And the
performance is truly amazing. No wonder Shostakovich loved the piece and
used the same remote key of E flat minor for his last quartet.
Tchaikovsky's Third Quartet is one of the greats.... it truly is.
And the disc is completed by the Souvenir de Florence , a popular
tuneful work but it does not have the qualities of the E flat minor quartet.
For those who like light Tchaikovsky you will love this piece but, as for
me, I will avoid the Souvenir de Florence in favour of a quartet that
is so good, so compelling, so realistic to life, so utterly soul-satisfying
that the Souvenir sounds so cheap alongside it.
The performances are first rate.. very special, and the recording captures
the warmth and intimacy to perfection. Worth having for the First and Third