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The St. Petersburg String Quartet to Perform Works by Borodin and Tchaikovsky, Tuesday, October 26, 8 P.M., in Finney Chapel

Story by Claire Chase
Photographs courtesy of Lisa Sapinkopf Artists


Quartet No. 2 in D major
Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)

• Allegro moderato
• Scherzo. Allegro
• Notturno. Andante
• Finale. Andante. Vivace


Quartet No. 2 in D major, Op. 22
Piotr I. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

• Adagio. Moderato assai
• Scherzo. Allegro giusto
• Andante ma non tanto
• Finale. Allegro con moto




The internationally-acclaimed St. Petersburg String Quartet, composed of Alla Aranovskaya and Ilya Teplyakov on violin, Aleksey Koptev on viola and Leonid Shukayev on cello, is slated to perform two landmark 19th-century Russian Romantic works on the ensemble's October 26 Faculty Recital. The program will offer Borodin's String Quartet No. 2 in D Major and Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 2, Opus 22 in F Major. The concert, scheduled for 8 p.m. on Tuesday, October 26, in Finney Chapel, is free and open to the public.

"This concert is part of our Russian Music Cycle for the year," explains Ilya Teplyakov, St. Petersburg second violinist. "We'll be performing programs of all Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Prokofiev string quartets throughout this year." During the ensemble's 1997-8 Oberlin residency, the St. Petersburg Quartet performed the complete cycle of 15 Shostakovich string quartets.

"Borodin and Tchaikovsky were both important Russian composers in the nineteenth century Romantic era, and they contributed a unique kind of imagination to Romantic music. Borodin's music, for example, is much less dramatic than Tchaikovsky's, which is very tragic and dramatic. Borodin's style is lighter, especially in the case of the beautiful third movement of his String Quartet No. 2. This "Notturno" is one of the most famous movements Borodin ever wrote."

Borodin's String Quartet was written during the summer of 1881 in the country residence of the composer Lodyshensky in Zhitovo, and premiered by the Galkin-Degtyerev-Rezvetsov-Kuznetsov Quartet at a meeting of the Imperial Russian Musical Society in St. Petersburg on March of the following year.

S.A. Dianin, one of Borodin's biographers, suspects that the composition was written as a musical gift to celebrate Borodin and his wife's 20th wedding anniversary. Dedicated to the composer's wife, the piece is light and cheerful, and achieves great unity of mood and thematic handling throughout its four movements. The contemporary Borodin scholar A. N. Shokor likens the second movement to "the atmosphere of a garden party on a summer evening," and detects "the sound of an uneventful new day in the finale."

Tchaikovsky began work on his String Quartet No. 2 in early January of 1874 and completed it by January 30. "I wrote it almost in one sitting," the composer remarked. "None of my pieces has ever flowed out of me so easily and simply." The work was first heard in a soiree performance at Nikolay Rubenstein's in February, 1874, and first performed in public on March 22 in Moscow.

Characterized by striking chromaticism and pathos, the opening is described by the composer in this way: "If I have written anything during my life that is really heartfelt and flowing straight from the depths of the inner me, then it is just the first movement of this quartet." Tchaikovsky reversed the conventional order of the central movements, placing the Andante, which serves as the expressive center of gravity of the entire work, between two lighter companions, the Scherzo and Finale.

The St. Petersburg Quartet has released critically-acclaimed CDs of both Borodin's and Tchaikovsky's quartets on the Sony Classical label. Teplyakov stresses the evolving nature of the quartet's interpretation of these works, as the ensemble repeats and refines performances. "Each performance, naturally, changes slightly each time we play or record a work. This makes the resurrection of such great literature rewarding."

The St.Petersburg Quartet's rise to fame has included a Grammy nomination, Best Record of the Month honors in both Stereo Review and Gramophone, an opening night performance at Mostly Mozart at Lincoln Center, and hundreds of concerts on the most prestigious music series and festivals of North America, Europe and Asia. 1999-2000 will see the release on Hyperion of the complete Shostakovich cycle, and Delos of Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 by Prokofiev, and the much acclaimed Quartet No. 1 by Gregorian composer Zurab Nadarejshvili.

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