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July 16, 2005

Salingaros on the Borromeo

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm pleased to run a review of a new recording of a couple of Beethoven string quartets by the brilliant architectural critic, math professor, all-around-civilized-guy, and 2Blowhards fave Nikos Salingaros.

Here's Nikos:

Review of Borromeo String Quartet: Beethoven String Quartets Op. 59, No. 3, "Razoumofsky", and Op. 95, "Serioso" (Image Recordings, 2002)

We have here an outstanding first release in what many connoisseurs hope will be a full set of the Beethoven String Quartets. The Boston-based Borromeo Quartet is composed of all young players -- two men and two women. The way they play matches any of the middle-aged central-European gentlemen we have traditionally come to identify with the finest in quartet performances. This recording is so good that I believe it merits a detailed review.

ARTISTIC QUALITY. These interpretations rank alongside the "classic" ones of the past, including the Amadeus, Italiano, Vegh, etc. Please take the trouble to verify this for yourselves! That said, I'm going to compare them to three excellent recent complete sets -- those by the Auryn (Tacet), the second Lindsays (ASV); and the Takacs (Decca/Universal).

In sheer intensity of playing, the Borromeo equals its competitors. The same goes for control and introspection. Some listeners criticize the Lindsays for rough playing -- the Borromeo achieves the same power and excitement while staying more musical.

The Borromeo is as musically perceptive and interpretatively solid as the Auryn, and that's saying a great deal. For example, in the Second Movement of the Third "Razoumofsky", the Borromeo has perfect timing, along with the Auryn and Takacs, whereas the Lindsays are too fast. The Takacs, on the other hand, take the Finale of the Third "Razoumofsky" too fast for my taste, while the Lindsays are too slow. Even though the timing of the Borromeo's performance is actually four seconds faster than the Takacs', the Borromeo feels more natural. In the First Movement of the "Serioso", the Borromeo's pacing is absolutely perfect, while the Takacs (only 13 seconds faster) sound unnecessarily forced.

SOUND QUALITY. This recording is simply superb -- I would say truly "state of the art". It surpasses the Takacs, who are compromised by their sound engineers blending out their cello and fiddling with the overall volume for an exaggerated dynamic effect (at times, they have an unpleasant boom). The Lindsays' sound is very good but a trifle boxy.

The Borromeo's sound quality equals that of the Auryn, whose superb, transparent recorded sound is the best of all complete sets. Take, for example, the marvelous pizzicatos in the Second Movement of the Third "Razoumofsky". The Auryn's cello is cleanly recorded; the Lindsays' is slightly too prominent; the Takacs' cello appears to tiptoe in and out of the room; whereas in the Borromeo's recording, you can actually hear the cello resonate. Far from being an indistinct boom, it transmits accurate musical information.

The same transparent and vivid acoustic is present in the "Serioso" -- the Borromeo's cello is present in the room at all times; not obtrusive, but right there in front of you. The Takacs' cello and viola, on the other hand, seem to disappear when they don't have a leading role. The Borromeo, along with the Auryn and Lindsays, offers a natural blend of all four instruments. The Borromeo has the advantage of a clearer, more open high end over the Lindsays.

I have compared the Borromeo with the best. I believe that, as listeners discover this group and its recordings, my opinions will be confirmed.

There is one important final point. Deluged as we are by massive publicity campaigns from the major record labels, discriminating listeners should vote with their credit card by supporting smaller, innovative record producers. That's where the musical action is nowadays. To encourage both producer and performers into giving us more outstanding recordings, I urge everyone to purchase this CD immediately.

-- Dr. Nikos A. Salingaros, San Antonio, Texas


More information about the Borromeo recording -- as well as generous and gorgeous samples of the music -- can be found here. The purchase can also be made at Amazon, here.

Please be sure to visit Nikos' own website. There's an amazing amount of exciting and eye-opening information, thinking, and writing to be enjoyed there. Try this beauty for starters.

People who have only recently begun visiting 2Blowhards might not be familiar with how highly we esteem Nikos Salingaros. Type his name into our search box (near the top of the blog's left-hand column) and you'll discover many terrific and substantial postings. Or cut directly to the heart of the matter by reading our five-part interview with Nikos. All the interview parts can be accessed from this posting.

I'm super-pleased as well to relay the news that some of Nikos' most impressive writing has been collected in book form. The new book's title is "Principles of Urban Structure." And there's much yumminess inside: complexity, self-organization, urbanism, information theory. Even people who aren't interested in towns, cities, and the countryside will find much in the new book to make their brains buzz. Nikos' book can be purchased here.

Our thanks to Nikos Salingaros. And our congratulations to him on the new book.



posted by Michael at July 16, 2005


Good service

Posted by: Frank Johnson on July 20, 2005 5:21 AM

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