String Quartet No.1 in A Major
While Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) is fairly well-known, it is his orchestral pieces and not his chamber music which has made his name. Nine out of ten people could not tell you that the famous Borodin melody in the popular Broadway musical Kismet is from his Second String Quartet. But Borodin wrote several lovely chamber music works, most of it virtually unknown today.
His First String Quartet dates from the mid 1870's and bears the subtitle “Suggested by a theme of Beethoven.” Though Borodin himself did not enlighten the reader as to which theme, it was from the final movement of Beethoven's Op.130 String Quartet in B flat Major. The first movement, Moderato—Allegro, starts with a slow introduction which builds tension and expectation especially as it begins to accelerate. It is the Allegro (where our soundbite begins) in which traces of the Beethoven theme may be heard. The second movement, Andante con moto, begins with a duet in the first violin and viola. It is introspective and pensive. The middle section is a relaxed fugue on a chromatic rising line. The extraordinary third movement, Scherzo: Prestissimo, has a triplet figure which is quickly handed off from voice to voice at a breakneck speed. The trio section, based on a theme very close to the opening Allegro, is mostly made up of harmonics in all of the voices and creates a marvelous fairyland of tone. There was certainly nothing like it up until that time. The finale, Andante—Allegro risoluto, begins with a brief and moderato introduction. Both the 1st violin and cello have short cadenzas. The main subject of the Allegro, is quite energetic while the second subject is clearly related to several of the other themes which have appeared earlier.
This is a fine work which deserves to be heard in concert and will certainly be appreciated by amateurs everywhere.
Parts & Score: $31.95