Alexander Borodin was a doctor and a chemist who pursued music as an avocation. In addition to his work in musical composition, he also studied the cello.
Borodin studied composition with Mily Balakirev, starting in 1862. During this time he composed his first symphony, which premiered in 1869 with Balakirev as conductor.
Modest Mussorgsky and Borodin first met in 1856 when both were stationed at a military hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Alexander Borodin died suddenly duing a ball at the Imperial Medical-Surgical Academy, where he conducted research and lectured. Consequently, he left a number of his musical works unfinished. Rimsky-Korsakov, working with fellow musician Alexander Glazunov, completed Borodin's opera Prince Igor.
This section presents a sampling of Alexander Borodin's compositions. Click here for an extended list of Borodin's works.
Borodin's symphonic poem In the Steppes of Central Asia depicts a caravan of Central Asians traveling across the desert (the Russian steppe) under the protection of Russian troops. Borodin employs distinct themes to indicate various elements in the piece, including a melody led by the French horns to represent those from Central Asia, a traveling theme to indicate the hooves of horses and camels, and a Russian melody to depict the Russian troops.
The motivation for the musical tableaux was a celebration of the silver anniversary of the regin of Tsar Alexander II of Russia.
Click here to listen to a performance of In the Steppes of Central Asia.
In contrast to the other members of the Mighty Five, Alexander Borodin embraced chamber music forms, one example of which is his second string quartet. The quartet features two violins, one viola, and one cello.
Borodin's second string quartet is best known for its Nocturne, the third movement of the piece.
Several of Borodin's musical themes found there way into modern pop culture through the American musical Kismet in 1953. "And This is my Beloved" derives its melody from the Nocturne, and "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" sourced its melody from one of the themes from the quartet's second movement.
Click here to listen to a performance of Borodin's String Quartet No. 2
Click here to listen to a performance of "And this is my Beloved" from Kismet.
Click here to listen to a performance of "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" from Kismet.
The epic poem The Lay of Igor's Host, suggested by music critic Vladimir Stasov, provided the inspiration for Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor. The opera tells the story of Rus prince Igor Svyatoslavich's campaign against invading Polovtsian (Cuman) tribes in 1185.
Borodin left the opera unfinished upon his sudden death in 1887. Colleagues Nikkolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov completed the work; it premiered in St. Petersburn in 1890.
Melodies from Prince Igor also found their way into the musical Kismet. "Stranger in Paradise", for example, sources its melody from one of the opera's Polovtsian Dances, the Gliding Dance of the Maidens.
Click here to listen to a performance of the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor.
Click here to listen to a performance of "Stranger in Paradise" from Kismet.
"Alexander Borodin." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 30 May 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link
"In the Steppes of Central Asia." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Jan. 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link
"List of compositions by Alexander Borodin." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 23 Jun. 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link
"Polovtsian Dances." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 24 Jun. 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link
"Prince Igor." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 Jul. 2017. Web. 3 Jul. 2017., Link