MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

 58,121 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

Brahms Dvorak
Brahms 2 Dvorak 7
all tudor reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
String Quartet No. 1 op. 49 [14:27]
String Quartet No. 8 op. 110 [24:25]
String Quartet No. 14 op. 142 [29:54]
Two Pieces for String Quartet op. 36a [7:12]
Borodin Quartet (Ruben Aharonian (first violin); Sergei Lomovsky (second violin); Igor Naidin (viola); Vladimir Balshin (cello))
rec. 2015, Concert Hall of the Victor Popov Academy of Choral Arts, Moscow.
DECCA 478 8205 [75:53]

The original Borodin Quartet was formed seventy years ago in 1945, initially calling itself the Moscow Philharmonic Quartet The group changed its name to the Borodin Quartet ten years later and is one of the few existing chamber groups with such continuity and longevity. This new disc of the music with which they are most closely associated is issued to mark that seventieth anniversary. It launches a new cycle of Shostakovich’s 15 quartets to succeed the version of numbers 1 to 13 by the original members (reissued on Chandos), and its successor of all 15 (Melodiya). This third Borodin cycle will contain some other pieces, including the Piano Quintet.

There have been successive changes in the group’s personnel, but overlaps have enabled the legacy to be passed on. Of the current members of the Quartet Ruben Aharonian and Igor Naidin joined in 1996, Vladimir Balshin in 2007, and Sergei Lomovsky in 2011. None of them feature in those near-legendary two recordings of the Shostakovich quartet cycle, which had in common the viola player Dmitri Shebalin and the cellist Valentin Berlinsky — who was the teacher of the current cellist. “As each newcomer joins”, the Quartet’s website states, “he hears the existing members playing in a very recognisable style, so he is automatically soaking up the tradition. It’s not formal teaching, as if your colleagues are correcting you. A quartet is in a permanent state of studying from each other. It’s as natural a process as could exist, learning while performing with your elder colleagues.”

The rich string sound and solid technique evident in the opening movement of quartet No.1 is indeed reminiscent of earlier incarnations of this group. So too is the feeling for the idiom, and as the genial and seemingly simple C major music develops more ambiguity, the Borodins are alert to the nuanced playing required to cast shadows upon the serene surface. There is though little truly quiet playing in this work, and not that much more elsewhere, which might be an effect of the recording, which though slightly close, is generally very fine.

The 8th quartet also receives a good performance with plenty of drama and fine playing. However some doubts did creep in about the intensity level, which is normally so high with the Borodin Quartet in this repertoire, and I wondered if this in part down to a slightly broader tempo than usual. So I looked up the timings of the movements of this 8th quartet in the two earlier cycles and compared them to this one.

1st cycle
2nd cycle
3rd cycle
Movement 1
Movement 2
Movement 3
Movement 4
Movement 5

This evident slowing down seems to lower the emotional temperature somewhat. Certainly the interpretation is less fraught with terror and freighted with oppression than in the earlier versions. This might not be all loss, as even Russian musicians can now treat the work as a string quartet and not a harrowing chapter of autobiography. There after all would be no artistic point in a straight remake in modern sound of those earlier versions.

The 14th quartet receives the best performance on this disc. There is a similar broadening of tempo in all three movements compared to the second Borodin cycle (29:54 versus 28:15) but this does not rob the music of the sense of growth needed to sustain the three longish movements. The central Adagio is especially poignant here, searching and affecting, though not so redolent of the sick room of a death-haunted artist as with their predecessors. Perhaps these later quartets in the cycle are now granted a more universal significance, as the political and personal conditions in which they were written recede in time. That would only be appropriate for the first post-Soviet Shostakovich cycle from the Borodin Quartet, of which this makes an auspicious start. So don’t discard your earlier Borodin cycles, but do look forward to a more developed contemporary approach unfolding from their successors as this cycle progresses.

Roy Westbrook


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

November 2022
Bach Orchestral Suites

del Cinque
Del Cinque Cello sonatas

Fujita Mozart
Mao Fujita Mozart

Stanczyk Acousmatic Music


October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus