Borodin Quartet honored for lifetime career at Istanbul Music Festival

They’re just five guys from Moscow.
But what an extraordinary five they are: the world-renowned Borodin Quartet plus pianist Boris Berezovsky. Istanbul audiences witnessed their exalted music making at Aya irini on June 4, the fourth concert in the 43rd edition of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Art’s (iKSV) Istanbul International Music Festival.
The string quartet — violinists Ruben Aharonian and Sergey Lomovsky, violist Igor Naidin and cellist Vladimir Balshin — which is in the midst of a world tour to celebrate their 70th year, performed a program of two piano quintets by Antonin orak with Berezovsky. But before we heard the music, a ceremony took place onstage in which they were awarded the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award for seven decades of a superlative career that started the same year that World War II ended.
The honor was delivered by festival director Yeiim Gandurer Oymak and iKSV director GandOrgandun Taner. Said violist Naidin: “This is an outstanding award for us, and we definitely accept it on behalf of all the members during this quartet’s life. And we are extremely grateful to be in Istanbul!”
Their choice to play orak, a late 19th-century Czech nationalist composer whose music is intensely flavored with folkloric themes and rhythms, showed the kind of superb blend that develops after years of working, touring and recording together. Although the members have changed throughout the decades, their signature tonal sweetness and unity of breath, phrase, insight and interpretive authority have always been maintained. They match each other in every possible sonic way, yet individual solos still retain exquisite luster — especially that of first violinist Aharonian.
That impeccable blend and mellifluous tone was immediately apparent right from the start of the first two movements of the Piano Quintet, Opus 5, where the quartet’s exemplary long decrescendos down to the micron level melted in the ear. The intonation was so perfect and the expressive andeacutelan so compelling that people forgot to cough — a crackling cough chorus erupted only after the last note. Then they jumped into the jolly romp of the third movement, as if on horses cavorting with quirky syncopations through the forests.
The second quintet, Opus 81, began with a burnished and romantic cello solo that came back in various permutations against contrastingly wild and stormy allegro paragraphs. This comparatively more mature work than the earlier Opus 5 takes the listener through a wide spectrum of moods from ecstatic high-speed trajectories to chorale-like seriousness and funereal tragedy. Throughout, Berezovsky, whose role was often soloistic, never overshadowed, was the ultimate team player. The Borodin Quartet with Berezovsky, through unanimity of breath and bow, skillfully blended their seasoned elegance with devotional vigor.
The Istanbul Music Festival, which opened on May 31, is presenting 24 concerts in 11 venues around the city until June 29, when it concludes with celebrated pianist Yuja Wang performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra. For the full festival program, see http:muzik.iksv.orgen.
h2Istanbul Recitals closes season with Schnyderh2 As is often the case in Istanbul, two or more major musical events are scheduled simultaneously. While making a choice is difficult, it’s also an indication of how rich the musical programming here has become. For example, Swiss pianist Oliver Schnyder made his Istanbul debut on the other side of town, at The Seed in the Sakip Sabanci Museum, also on June 4.
Schnyder, a recording artist with an impressive global career in full swing, was slated to perform works by Schubert, Brahms and Scriabin. Because of the date conflict with the Istanbul Music Festival that night, Schnyder agreed to let Today’s Zaman observe a rehearsal that afternoon. There, he illuminated excerpts of sonatas by Schubert and Brahms with equal amounts of brawn and eloquence.
That evening was also the eighth season finale for Istanbul Recitals, who lost their founder, Kandacircmil iandukanducircn, to cancer in April. iandukanducircn’s colleague Nazan Ceylan is continuing to manage the series with the same wonderful selection of the world’s great pianists. The series’ ninth season starts in October with artists from Iceland, Germany, Israel, France, Russia, Canada, Ireland, China and Daniel Barenboim’s young prodigy from Jordan.
h2An evening in Spain with Hewitth2
Pianist Angela Hewitt performs during a concert on June 5 at the Sandureyya Opera House. (Photo:Ali Ganduler)
Another great pianist came to town on June 5 courtesy of the Istanbul Music Festival. Angela Hewitt, the esteemed artist best known for her recordings of J.S. Bach’s works, brought a colorful program to the Sandureyya Opera House that adhered to the festival’s theme, “Cultural Landscapes,” with her savory “Spanish Landscapes.”
Beginning with eight effervescent short sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, an Italian composer who spent much of his life in Spain and Portugal, Hewitt captivated the audience with her precision, using enough of a mechanistic approach to suggest the instrument they were written for — the harpsichord — but discreetly blending in the tonal colorings and the volume controls of the modern piano, thereby creating gorgeously shaped phrases with artful dynamics.
She followed with a bravura selection of Spanish works by Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla and Isaac Albeniz: all of them challenging for the player, vividly descriptive and richly imbued with emotional qualities of Spanish village life.
She languidly lingered on the lazy, seemingly semi-improvised phrases of Granados’ “Rondalla aragonesca” before building up to a series of terrifying climaxes she also braved his monster knucklebuster “The Straw Man” with great technical prowess and tackled Falla’s massive “Fantasia Baetica,” a piece verging on orchestral proportions with ultra-florid and impressionistic demands, with indefatigable dazzle and drama.
Istanbul audiences will soon have another opportunity to hear Hewitt: she performs for Istanbul Recitals in February.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman