Monday, 30 May 2016

Haydn - String Quartets Op.33 - Borodin Quartet

Rating: 5/5

A very good set

I like this set very much. I already have some excellent recordings of these Op.33 quartets and I think the Borodins stand very well beside them.

This is the set which Haydn claimed to have composed "in a new and special way." Exactly what that new way was has never been quite clear, but they are a terrific set of quartets, full of Haydn's maturing genius for melody, harmonic invention, subtlety and, of course, wit. This is at its most obvious in the famous ending of the E flat quartet ("The Joke"), but his good humour often shines through here, alongside much very fine and sometimes profound music. It's a delightful, varied set.

The Borodin Quartet perform it very well indeed. They are technically excellent with impeccable intonation, restrained use of vibrato and no portamento (sliding up or down to a note) which is perfect for these quartets. They give proper weight to Haydn's music while understanding that Haydn often said serious things in a witty way, and they have a lovely zing in some of the quicker movements - I love their Presto finale of the B minor quartet, for example. They play on modern instruments which gives the music a full, crisp sound which is very well captured on the recording (although I did think the recording was a little light on the cello occasionally, but that may just be because I'm a cellist.)

I would say that this interpretation is somewhere between Quatuor Mosaiques excellent recording on period instruments and the Lindsays' modern, rather freer approach. I have owned and loved both of those sets for years, but I am very glad to have this, too. It's enormously enjoyable and sheds new light in some places. Very warmly recommended.

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