The Rambler :: blog

Friday, May 20, 2005

Valentin Berlinsky 

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To matters happier.

There's a gem of an interview with Borodin Quartet cellist Valentin Berlinsky, who is in the unusual position of having played with the same quartet throughout its entire life; what's more, that quartet is now 60 years old. There are several fantastic insights in the piece, but these are two of the best:
The music of Shostakovich has become one of their mainstays. They played the Third Quartet from manuscript in 1947, and thereafter the Borodins and Shostakovich forged a close bond of friendship. They often played works through to him. Did he offer any interpretative tips? "Sometimes he commented on our tempos. We'd say that we were only following his own metronome marks, and his reply was, 'My metronome at home is broken. Don't pay any attention to my metronome marks.' "
"Our first time beyond the Iron Curtain was to Italy in 1958. We had nothing to do with choosing where we went: we had lots of offers from the West, but couldn't accept them. As to repertoire, we were given 'recommendations' by a special ideological department of the Central Committee. Two-thirds of the programme had to be of Russian or Soviet music, but there was a hole in the ideological system. Western impresarios might ask us for Beethoven, Mozart or Schubert. We'd agree this with the impresario; with Goskontsert we'd confirm a programme of Schubert plus Russian music, and on the platform we'd go ahead and play Schubert, Beethoven and Mozart. Nobody kept an eye on our programmes. Goskontsert wasn't interested in what we played, but only in the money we brought back."

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