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Borodin, Alexander (Porfiryevich)

Borodin, Alexander (Porfiryevich) (b St Petersburg, 1833; d St Petersburg, 1887). Russ. composer, one of the group known as ‘The Five’. Illegitimate son of Russ. prince. Showed childhood talent for mus. and science, composing pf. pieces and fl. conc. Entered medical profession, graduating in 1855, Acad. of Medicine and Surgery, St Petersburg. Studied science in Heidelberg and elsewhere 1859–62. Appointed ass. prof. of chemistry, Acad. of Medicine 1862, prof. from 1864. Meeting with Balakirev 1862 persuaded him to devote leisure to serious study of mus. while continuing his scientific work, which incl. foundation of School of Medicine for Women, where he lectured from 1872 to his death. His first sym. was prod. 1869, but he had already tasted failure with comic opera The Bogatyrs in 1867. His Sym. No.2 in B minor was also a failure at f.p. 1877, the year in which he visited Liszt at Weimar. Liszt in 1880 ensured a perf. of the First Sym. at Baden-Baden which initiated Borodin's popularity outside Russia. In 1869 his friend Stasov suggested an opera on the subject of Prince Igor. This appealed to Borodin's nationalism, but difficulties with the lib., plus the interruptions from his scientific career, made comp. slow and the work, Borodin's masterpiece, was never finished, but was completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov. Melodic and harmonic originality of Borodin's style are best heard in Prince Igor, but the second sym., the 2 str. qts., and the tone-poem In the Steppes of Central Asia (1880) ensure his survival. Prin. works:OPERA: Prince Igor (unfinished, completed and partly orch. by Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov) (1869–70, 1874–87).ORCH.: syms.: No.1 in E♭ (1862–7), No.2 in B minor (1869–76), No.3 in A minor (1885–6, unfinished, completed and orch. by Glazunov); tone-picture In the Steppes of Central Asia (V sredney Azii) (1880); Nocturne from 2nd str. qt., orch. Sargent.CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qts.: No.1 in A major (1877–9), No.2 in D (1881–7); pf. quintet in C minor (1862).PIANO: Petite Suite (1885), orch. Glazunov; Scherzo in A♭ Polka, Requiem, Dead March, and Mazurka in coll. Paraphrases on theme of Chopsticks (1880).

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