Russian composer. Born in St Petersburg, the illegitimate son of a Russian prince, he became an expert in medical chemistry, but enjoyed music and wrote it in his spare time. His main work is the opera Prince Igor, left unfinished; it was completed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Aleksandr Glazunov and includes the Polovtsian Dances. His other works include symphonies, songs, and chamber music, using traditional Russian themes.
His father, Prince Gedeanov, registered Borodin as the son of one of his serfs. From childhood Borodin showed an equal liking for music and for science. He tried to compose at the age of nine and was given music lessons. In his studies at the Academy of Medicine he distinguished himself especially in chemistry, and while studying in Germany he met the pianist Ekaterina Protopopova, whom he married in 1863. The preceding year, having so far been self-taught in composition, he began to take lessons from Mily Balakirev, who conducted his first symphony in 1869. In the same year, he began his opera Prince Igor, working on it at irregular intervals; the score, completed posthumously by Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov, contains some of his finest music. He lectured on chemistry at the School of Medicine for Women from 1872 to his death and wrote important treatises on his subject. In spite of being best known for such ‘highlights’ as the Polovtsian Dances and even Kismet/Fate, Borodin's music is well worth much closer attention. His best work is highly charged and colourful, without being sensational or melancholy in the manner of some of his contemporaries.
WorksOperaPrince Igor (1869–87, unfinished).
Orchestral three symphonies (1867, 1876, third unfinished); In the Steppes of Central Asia for orchestra (1880).
Chamber two string quartets (1874–79, 1881); Serenata alla spagnuola for string quartet; Petite Suite for piano.
VocalSerenade de quatre galants à une dame for male voice quartet; songs.
Borodin, Aleksandr Porfirevich
Borodin, Aleksandr Prince Igor
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