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Borodin Quartet (Ensemble)

Ruben Agaronian —Violin
Andrei Abramenkov —Violin
Igor Naidin —Viola
Valentine Berlinsky —Cello

The Borodin Quartet is unquestionably one of the great music ensembles of the 20th century. Founded in 1945 as the Moscow Philharmonic Quartet, the ensemble was renamed the Borodin Quartet in 1955. The world‘s longest-lived string quartet, the Borodin Quartet has an unparalleled reputation and history. It will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2005.

Cellist Valentine Berlinsky has performed with the Quartet from its inception and over the years has personally selected his colleagues. First violinist Ruben Agaronian, a noted prizewinner at prestigious international competitions (Tchaikovsky, Enescu, Montreal), joined the group in 1996. Second violinist, Andrei Abramenko has been a member since 1974. Their newest member, violist Igor Naidin, studied in Moscow with Yuri Bashmet, Mikhail Kopelman and violist Dmitri Sherbalin, whom he eventually replaced in the Borodin Quartet.

The Borodin Quartet has performed an extensive range of the vast string quartet literature. However, a particular affinity with Russian repertoire was stimulated by their early, close relationship with Dmitri Shostakovich, who personally worked with them on each of his quartets. Widely regarded as the definitive interpretations, the Borodin Quartet recorded the first and second editions of the complete quartets. The Borodin Quartet has also become closely associated with the string quartets of Beethoven. They have performed the complete cycles of Shostavkovich and Beethoven Quartets in all of the major music centers of the world. During the current season, they performed the Beethoven cycle at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Musikverein in Vienna and for the City of London Festival. This season brought the first recording in their Beethoven Quartet cycle for Chandos Records, which will be completed by their 60th Anniversary season in 2005.

The Borodin Quartet has an exceptionally large discography including works of Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn, Dvorak and Brahms, all received to great acclaim. Their recordings of Tchaikovsky Quartets for Teldec Classics was honored with a Gramophone Award (1994).

The Borodin Quartet will tour extensively during its 60th Anniversary including concerts throughout Europe, Japan and the United States.

Ruben Agaronian, violin, was born in Riga, Latvia in 1947. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Professor Yankelevich and after graduating, with Leonid Kogan. He has won prizes at several international competitions, including the Enescu Competition in Bucharest, the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and the Montreal Competition. Mr. Aharonian is currently Professor of Violin at the Yerevan State Conservatory. He has a wide-ranging discography and has toured extensively throughout Europe, North and South America.

Andrei Abramenkov, violin, was born in Moscow in 1935. His musical training began at an early age. Both of his parents were musicians—his father played the viola in the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and his mother was a trained pianist. As a boy he sang as a soprano in the Bolshoi Theatre Choir. He studied violin with Yankelevich in Moscow at the Central Music and later at the Moscow Conservatory with Sibor and Mostras. In 1956, he was a prizewinner at the all-Soviet Competition. While still a student at the Conservatory, he was invited to join the Moscow Chamber Orchestra under the leadership of Rudolf Barshai, with whom he played for 17 years.

Igor Naidin, viola, was born in 1969. He began his musical studies at the age of seven and continued at the Moscow Conservatory under Yuri Bashmet. In 1995 he won the Second International Viola Competition in Moscow, receiving an additional prize for ensemble playing. He was a founding member of the Quartetto Russo which won awards at the London International String Quartet Competition and “Concertino Prague.” The Quartetto Russo received regular coaching from Valentin Berlinsky and Mikhail Kopelman (the Borodin Quartet’s first violinist for 20 years).

Valentine Berlinsky, cello, was born in 1925 in Irkutsk. He began studying music at the age of seven with his father, who was a violinist, but the lessons did not last long. When he was 13 that he began serious studies at the Central Music School in Moscow and subsequently, the Moscow Conservatory as part of Kozolunov’s class. In 1946 he and some colleagues formed a new string quartet, the Moscow Philharmonic Quartet, which was renamed the Borodin Quartet. He began giving cello and quartet lessons at the Gnesinikh Musical Pedagogical Institute in Moscow, where he still teaches today.

“Beethoven-mania at the Musikverein: It‘s not enough that in the Goldenen Saal Daniel Barenboim has been slugging through the collected Sonatas on the imposing Grand. Next door the Borodin Quartet now starts their cycle of all of the master‘s Quartets. With the latter, how does one begin? The numerically-thinking Russians started with Op. 18/1—though the actual firstborn is to be found two numbers further in the same opus. But one immediately forgets such details as soon as the four men play through the F Major Opus. Each passage is imbued with its unique coloration, attentively exploring even the work‘s remotest angles—through which their arched, taut elbows never seem to break. All of this succeeds with a transparency one strives for in a studio recording. One does not get to hear such lucid Beethoven every day. And never so effortlessly. Their sforzati moved through the ensemble weightlessly, like short gusts of wind—until the quartet at last masterfully brought the Finale to rest. The Borodins bow evenly without hard breaks: Thanks to their virtuosity and simply their joy of playing, they did something great without even a wink of effort. And hardly less in the harp quartet: impish flashes of pizzicati, as the distinctive dance swings the Scherzo. The Adagio of the Rasumovsky Quartet completed the great moment. With out-of-this-world string-sound dreams, the Borodin‘s Beethoven is absolutely meant for all time—which gave reason for plentiful applause.”
Wiener Zeitung, April 23, 2004

“The Borodin Quartet‘s performances command attention in their quiet intensity. The obsessive rhythmic patterns became like the knocking of death at the door—Shostakovich lived in constant fear of the knock by Stalin‘s police that would send him to his doom—and the cries and groans that concluded No 12 were etched in grief... it‘s always strange to see an audience burst into instantaneous whoops and applause for a Shostakovich quartet, as Thursday‘s audience did.”
Berkeshire Eagle, August 6, 2003

“The Borodin‘s past mastery of the music is on a level of its own. The inner movements with their emotional violence seemed to go by in a flash, while the very long fifth movement held one‘s attention without an instant‘s respite. This was music-making of the very highest order.”
Ottawa Citizen, August 4, 2002

“What enchanting, lovely ensemble! What perfect balance! Although it sounds like a rather often used cliche , you can actually say that this is the Russian soul speaking longingly out of the instruments.”
Flensburger Tageblatt, August 14, 2000

“If Shostakovich were around to hear them, I‘m sure he would have smiled and wept, and those of us lucky to have been in Bantry to travel the full journey with them, will probably never feel quite the same about either Shostakovich or string quartet-playing again.”
Irish Times, May 2, 2000

“Great musical traditions seldom come better preserved than that in the Borodin Quartet. The Borodins draw strength from a past that is still partly present: their cellist, Valentin Berlinsky, is a link to the Quartet‘s beginnings in Moscow nearly 55 years ago, and to composers they have worked with, including Shostakovich. When they stepped out at the Wigmore Hall to give inspiring performances of his music, it was impossible not to sense a laying-on of hands.”
John Allison,The Times, February 1, 1999

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