Beethoven Cycle

FRANK CLIFF The Borodin Quartet at the John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park


The Borodin's Beethoven's Cycle has been a tremendous success — indeed how could it have been otherwise? — but now it has come to an end I regret missing the two midweek recitals, for what finally impressed most was their penetrating insight into the late quartets.

Of course, as their performance of opus 18 No 5 showed the Borodin produced consistently immaculate playing; occasionally perhaps to a fault.

There were moments such as the trio of the minuet and the fifth variation of the slow movement when the playing seemed if anything too refined. However no such criticism could be levelled at their performance of the A minor quartet opus 132. Here there seemed to be an extra dimension to their playing which came as close as possible to revealing the essence of this music – and nowhere more so than in the magical sotto voce opening of the central Heiliger Dankgesang.

Sunday's recital provided a tremendous climax. Their reading of opus 18 No 6 was the most vital of any of those that I have heard; their playing of opus 135 immaculate though at the expense in the scherzo of the real elemental quality of the music. This they reserved in plenty for the last work, the Grosse Fugue, the perfect vehicle for their virtuosity and musicianship.

The spontaneous standing ovation at the beginning of the concert as well as at the end said it all: Norwich and Norfolk Chamber Music and UEA have done Norwich proud.

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