Borodin Quartet

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The Borodin Quartet is a string quartet that was founded in 1945 in what was then the Soviet Union. The four players have not always been the same people: there have been some changes to the group, but it is one of the world's longest lasting string quartets. In 2005 they celebrated their 60th anniversary. Until he retired in 2007 the cellist Valentin Berlinsky had almost always been the cellist of the quartet.

When they started they were known as the Moscow Philharmonic Quartet. In 1955 the quartet changed its name to Borodin Quartet, named after the composer Alexander Borodin who composed two famous string quartets.

They often got invitations to play in the West, but the Soviet communist government would not allow them to travel out of their country. The quartet had to accept the concerts that their government allowed them to do. They played at the funerals of the dictator Stalin and the composer Sergei Prokofiev which were on the same day (both men died on 5 March 1953. However, they were not paid anything for either event.

The quartet knew the composer Dmitri Shostakovich very well. They performed his quartets, and Shostakovich often listened to them practising and discussed with them the way he wanted them to be played. The quartet often played piano quintets with the pianist Sviatoslav Richter.

When they started in 1945 their cellist was Mstislav Rostropovich. Rudolf Barshai was their viola player. Very soon afterwards Rostropovich found he had too many other engagements, so he got Valentin Berlinsky to be their cellist. The four men who then formed the quartet signed an oath in their own blood that they would be faithful and stay together as a group. They stayed together for 20 years. Then Rostislav Dubinsky, the first violinist, defected to the West and the second violinist, Jaroslav Alexandrov, retired because of bad health. With two new players, the quartet spend two years practising together before they performed again in public.

When Communism collapsed and the Soviet Union broke up, the quartet still continued to be very famous. They travelled abroad a lot, performing in places such as London.

They have made many recordings including all Shostakovich's string quartets and all Beethoven quartets.

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