12/6/2013 After listening intensely to the Bruno Walter Mahler 9th, I'll relax with some delicate and whimsical chamber music, ala Alexander Borodin. Recorded in Budapest October 25...28/1993, here is the Haydn Quartet of that great city in a performance made of the two string quartets by Borodin, #1 in A, and #2 in D. The recording on NAXOS, runs 37:37 for Qr> #1 and 28:28 for #2. The discount label of NAXOS delivers fine saound, especially in the strong unison introduction of 1:55 before launching into an Allegro tempo which dominates the movement of 13:13 in length. Listening to this beautiful work through my frontal array of speakers only, no surround used here, unless, of course, I desire to be inside of the 4 playerfs, which I do occasiuonally. I get a rich, strong blend of instruments in the manner of a small, private recital hall, all my own. I'm rich!!! (L. O. L. )
After the intro, the main body of the movement springs to life with a fast and breezy treatment of the main theme, and the unison playing is impressive. I can hear the members of the Haydn Qr. as if they were seated about 25-40 feet from me, direcxtly in the form of a capital T. This is an excellent way to hearANY music and if you're in the market for a new reciever, take a look at mine, an Onkyo 7.1 with a PLIIZ Height listening mode. I handles my floor JBL's ( 12 inch woofer and mid-range in wooden cabnitry ) ande my wall mounted Bose 324's at about 7 feet off the hardwood floor of my Living/Listening room. Also, this Mode drives a Boston Acustics Center speaker and a 12 inch Polk Audio sub-woofer. For orchestra and oratorio type pieces, this is a knockout presence, but most of my symphonig listening is done with my 4 surrounds added, even if not recorded in "surround."
The slow movement isn't that slow, as it is marked Andante, con moto, and runs moderato 7:48. It is delicate, whimsical and filled with much sunshine. Borodin labored on thisa 1st String quartwet freom the summer of 1`874 untill late 1880, and heard it's premiere in St. Petersburg in December of that year. Asa well all know, BORDIN WAS A CHEMESTRY PROFESSOR AT A MEDICAL SCHOOL. Composition was for him a "hobby," but kust imagine writting classical music as a sideline, he must have been a brilliant man. I took ywo years of Chemistry in my college years and let me tell you, they were tough. My teacher was a tiny old Catholic Sister, Sister Erwin, who had 3, count 'em THREE Masters Degrees, in Chemestry, Geology and Mathmatics. Of course she diddn't have kids to feed, nor a husband to placate. She was one of the most brilliant humans I ever knew, and asx I started my schooling at age 35, I was a regulasr "Mr. know-itall," untill I sat in her classes. The only man amongst about 12 co-eds, some quite beautiful, there I was, married with a son, and another on the way, and she had taught every graDE IN HER TIME, SHORT OF GRAD SCHOOL STUDENTS. CALCULATORS WERE FORBIDDEN IN CLASS TILL WEEK 8 OF 17 FOR THE SEMESTER, AND ON MY FIRST SHORT TEST, I GOT AN A, NUCLEAR CHEMESTRY AND THEN I KNEW I MIGHT HAVE A MEDICAL EDUCATION IN MY PUNY BRAIN. I WENT ON TO BECOME A NUCLEAR MED TECH., AND STILL REMEMBER STANDING AT THE CHALK BOARD, YES, REAL CHALK AND ERACERS, AND TREYING TO SOLVE AN EQUATION PROBLEM, THE GOOD SISTER STANDING BEHIND ME AND MY KNEES SILENTLY KNOCKING AND THE SWEAT RUNNING DOWN ,, IT SEEMED INTO MY SHOES. SHE TAUGHT ME A LOT ABOUT SCIENCE,YES, BUT ALSO A LOT ABOUT LIFE. I CREIED THE DAY I HEARD OF HER PASSING, AT A VERY GREAT AGE OF 85-92, OR SO.
So, I can imagine the tension for Borodin at this double life, never havcing completed Prince Igor, but leaving us 3 symphonies, the poem "Steppes" and the Polovetsian Dances from the oopera and these two nice quartets. The scerzo is as good asx the preceding two movements in ands of itself. The PRESTISSSIMOPACING is bouncey and joyous and played with eqyual enthusiasm by the Haydn members. It runs a much too short 5:58 and held my attention like few other short works do. At the 2:04 mark, there begins a short middle trio section of calm, peaceful almost psztoral mood, unusuall for many Russian quartets. It has a very different sound to it and probably took it's premiere audience by suprise. It did me, but I enjoyed it a lot. At 3:53, we're bck rto thew scherzo proper, and heading to the end of this part. We can vaguely detect some music from Borodin'sa Symphonies in this scherzo, not musch, but something.
The quartet's finale is an "ALlegro risoluto" of 10:38. It opens with a slow, funerial preocession, stately and mournful, as isf a tribute to a fallen friend. However, at 1:48 the quartet leaps into a fast and dramatic theme of much vigor and virtuosity. Having enjoyed three preceding movements, mostly of sunny warmth and gaitey, this last 10+ minutes seem curious. Perhaps, having composed this A Major work over nearly 6 and 1/2 years, Borodin may have lost track of some of his central ideas. It just doesn't seem to go with the first 26 or so minutes, but is, by itself, a finely crafted movement. Thed sub-title "risoluto" implies a "resolution" of some sort, but as this dramatic and driving set of ideas go along, resolution seems a bleak hope Around the step fvrom the 5-6 minute range presents a more upbeat tone, without sacrificing any of the built in energy of the "Professor, " as he came to be called by his friends and associates. At the 7:30 to region, the miusc simmers down just a bit, but, by no means does it die out, and near 8:40, we get some of the slow and moonlit thoughts yet to come in his 2nd quartet, about 3 years into the fvuture After a breief reloading , the summationrestarts itself at near 9:47 and dashes to a brilkliant and very bright A-Major final chord. A very nice and well played quartet be the gentlemen of the Haydn 4, and a good work to ow, mostly if you also have the 2nd Quartet, which follows on this fine NAAXos cd. A sturdy 4.00 star award and stay tuned, after a TEA BREAK F FOR THE BEST QUARTET, THE SUPERB D-Major of 1880.
Quartet for Strings in D,