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Russia's Borodin Quartet: a history of excellence

Chamber Music New Zealand presents:

Russia's Borodin Quartet: a history of excellence

In our sometimes frantic and frenetic world, we can forget to take a breath and pause. To stop and appreciate beauty, the passing of time and remembrance of history. But this is exactly the kind of experience Russia’s Borodin Quartet offers. One of the great string quartets of the modern era, the Quartet has a place in the history-books like no other, forming in 1947 and having collaborated with Shostakovich and performed at Prokofiev’s and Stalin’s funerals. This time they are performing in Aotearoa with Chamber Music New Zealand.

This September, Borodin Quartet’s Aotearoa concert tour marks the 125th anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s death, performing Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 1, Op 33 - a quartet which brought Leo Tolstoy to tears, the theme of the slow movement Andante cantabile based on an old Russian folk song which Tchaikovsky heard being whistled by a house painter. If you want a beautiful melody, Tchaikovsky is your man, the haunting melody making it easily the most popular of Tchaikovsky’s string output: ‘Why always the Andante? They do not seem to want to know anything else!’, complained Tchaikovsky to his brother, Modest.

Borodin Quartet’s concert also pays homage to the long-standing and intimate relationship the Quartet has with Shostakovich, performing his vibrant, in parts ecstatic and contrasting String Quartet No 9. Shostakovich personally supervised the Borodin Quartet’s study of each of his quartets at the Moscow Conservatory, and in this quartet, there is a jazz-like quality – an interesting musical choice when put in political context! With Khrushchev still complaining about the nausea and stomach pain he had experienced on listening to a jazz concert organised by Shostakovich five months earlier, some sources see his String Quartet No 9, Op 11 as a covert challenge, or a courageous attempt to stick to his own moral principles in his work, when he could, within the often frightening apparatus of the Soviet totalitarian state.

Having experienced the Soviet Union, the Cold War, Glasnost and Perestroika, the fall of the Soviet Union, rise of capitalism, and now current political surrounds, Borodin Quartet’s own distinctive musical quality has remained constant; their cohesion and vision “a commitment to tonal beauty, technical excellence and penetrating musicianship.” Hearing the Borodin Quartet’s honed musical perfection is to hear how music transcends these challenging political contexts and offers a simple moment of beauty. An important concert for our times.

Borodin Quartet are touring Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland 13 – 16 September. For ticketing and concert details visit:


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  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland