arranged by Tony Turrill from the String Quartet No. 2
for excerpts click here
or for the full quintet
A quotation from Borodin summarised his balanced approach to life - “music is a pastime, a relaxation from more serious occupations”. Somehow he managed to be seriously occupied as a leading researcher making a number of major discoveries in his field of organic chemistry, finally becoming a professor at the school of medicine with a particular role in developing courses for women and yet found the time to relax by writing a string sextet, a piano quintet, a couple of string quartets, a pair of symphonies and an almost complete opera, Prince Igor, finished posthumously by Rimsky Korsakov. Perhaps having friends like Mendeleef, the inventor of the first periodic table and composers of the stature of Rimsky Korsakov, Mussorgsky. Balakirev and Cui helped.
This arrangement is based on the string quartet that was used for the two most successful songs “ Baubles, bangles and beads” and “And this is my beloved” in the very popular musical Kismet. With the exception of an energetic scherzo in mvt. II, the first three movements are straightforwardly romantic and it is easy to see why fragments from mvts. II and III would appeal to the makers of Kismet and readily prove so popular. This serves to make the opening of the finale surprising and more than a little sinister. Two short fragments are introduced, both andante. In the original the first is for the two violins playing an octave apart , the second similarly in answer from the two lower instruments, very reminiscent of late Beethoven, The remainder of the movement is a vivace based on an extensive development of these two fragments with occasional pauses to restate the opening but with the first fragment now vivace and occasionally surfacing from an individual instrument. The movement heads to a final definitive ff repetition of both fragments in unison by the whole group before a frenetic conclusion dominated by fragment 1 and crowned by a sustained very high D that needs the flute to change to piccolo.- perhaps another gentle reminder of Borodin’s tinnitus, as in the “Steppes of Centrtal Asia”. The disturbing undercurrents of the finale are an unexpected conclusion to the work
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