Beethoven Cycle

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

FRANK CLIFF

There can be no greater challenge for a string quartet than a complete cycle of the Beethoven quartets which the Borodin Quartet, in what is a great musical coup for Norwich, are undertaking this week.

Beethoven's quartets span each of the periods with which it is convenient to label his work – early, middle and late – and the recitals are structured to contrast these periods.

Saturday's provided an admirable foretaste of what is in store, beginning with the early F major quartet opus 18, which demonstrated all the qualities one has come to expect of the Borodin: immaculate preparation, an elegant, warm sound and faultless execution. Opus 74 in E flat, particularly in the sublime smooth movement, revealed even deeper layers of their musicianship, and to end there was an exciting performance on the fiendishly difficult first Rasumovsky Quartet.

On Sunday, programmed between opus 18 No.2 and the second Rasumovsky was opus 127 in E flat, music which looked forward to Beethoven's late period. Despite a moment of light relief when, after the first chord, second violin Andrei Abramenkov realised he had the wrong music both this and the other two quartets received superbly polished performances.

Even so, this was a magnificent start to a week of Beethoven.

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