The Borromeo String Quartet, NEC quartet-in-residence (Nicholas Kitchen, Kristopher Tong, violins; Mai Motobuchi, viola; Yeesun Kim, cello), brings its acclaimed performances of the complete Beethoven String Quartets home to New England Conservatory in a cycle of five performances, April–May. The cycle overlaps with a similar one in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire and anticipates a cycle at Tokyo's Suntory Hall in June.
Why Beethoven? In her blog, Musical Assumptions, Elaine Fine, a composer, violist, violinist, and flutist, writes compellingly of the motivation: "For string players the Beethoven String Quartets are like what the Pentateuch is to theologians: a constant source of study and wonder. Each one is like a complicated person who becomes an intimate friend. We all know that the more you try to understand the people closest to you, the more of a mystery they become. When you throw love into the mix, it is nearly impossible to really "know" somebody. By the same reasoning, it is nearly impossible to "know" any of the Beethoven Quartets, but it is sure compelling to keep trying."
Critically praised, the quartet is recognized for its intense communicativeness. So for example, Michael Miller, writing in the Berkshire Review said:"There really is something different about the Borromeo’s ensemble. They are always cohesive and focused as a group, but there is a remarkable freedom in their musical interaction. There is more sympathy and inner synchronization in their playing than drill, and taking their cues from the entire score clearly plays a role in this. Far from making a fetish of technique, they approached the music with a heartening warmth of tone and apparent spontaneity... They themselves, bringing the audience along with them, were so deeply immersed in the flow of the music, that the individual units of the music, from section to movement to work to the entire series seemed to be a seamless fabric... I wouldn’t be surprised if even listeners who knew the music well found themselves marvelling at passages they thought they’d never heard before...The listener participated in Beethoven’s ruminations as something lived entirely in the moment, but with a consciousness of the whole and its larger patterns and structures."
Today's performance features the Beethoven Quartets Op. 59, No. 1–3 ("Razumovsky"). These "middle period" quartets were written in 1806, as a result of a commission by the Russian ambassador in Vienna, Count Andreas Razumovsky. To read Nick Kitchen's program note, click here.
Photo of Borromeo Quartet by Liz Linder.