Shostakovich, Borodin, Ravel

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Borodin,Ravel,Shostakovich
WORKS: String Quartet No. 8 in C minor
PERFORMER: Borodin Quartet
These are three cornerstones of the quartet repertoire, and yet Shostakovich’s best-known memorial was only two years old and unfamiliar to British audiences when the Borodin Quartet gave this performance at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival. It is a compelling interpretation, surprisingly forward-moving by today’s standards; the players urgently sculpt the anguished outlines of the human figure usually trapped under a granite headstone. Their way with the adorable Borodin Second could have turned to stone by the time the Edinburgh concert was taped, so many times had they already played it; and yet cellist Berlinsky gives perhaps his most radiant, unaffected phrasing of the famous Notturno melody, and a live intensity about the movement’s middle section carries through to the reprise in a way I’ve not heard on any of the quartet’s other recordings of the work. The performance’s lightness of touch also prepares us for an ideal flexibility and subtlety in the Ravel Quartet; no one listening without knowing the identity of the players would detect the Russian school of string-playing at work here. The plain, unvarnished acoustics of Leith Town Hall let the players create their own magical sonorities and the occasional audience coughing, all but stilled by the end of the Shostakovich, is easily tolerated given the very genuine frisson of the live delivery. David Nice