Because it makes us smile..... April 12 2015

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a concert of the Borodin Quartet in the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. What a treat! On the program were quartets of Borodin, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. The performance lived up to the expectations of the spoiled concert audience of the Dutch capital.

From the audience bravo’s sounded and the Quartet was kind enough to play a delicate encore. They chose an arrangement by Rostislav Dubinsky of Sweet Dreams from Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album. Rostislav Dubinsky was one of the founding fathers of the Borodin Quartet in 1945, playing the first violin until 1970 when he left the Soviet Union and defected to the West.

One of the things that I like about the Borodin Quartet – apart from their (nearly) unmatched musicality – is their subdued movements on stage while preforming. In fact, Ruban Aharonian, who plays the first violin, hardly seems to move at all. Exaggerated swishes and tormented faces are foreign to the Borodin Quartet. Where other musicians sometimes dish up a theatrical performance that forces you to close your eyes in order to concentrate on the music, the Borodin Quartet was – as my companion stated with a good sense of understatement – quite sparse with their body language. Fortunately so!

At one moment however, the stoic face of Aharonian did show a faint smile. It was during the performance of Sweet Dreams, a salon music-like piece, delicate with tasteful delays and an immersive nostalgic melody. On stage there was only the joy of playing. The joy I recognise so well when my (humble) string quartet plays a newly arranged piece by my friend Arjan van der Boom.

And that, my friends, is the power of music. To paint a smile on even one of the most stoic faces I know, the face of Ruban Aharonian. The power of Salon Music.