Search This Blog

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Alexander Borodin

Alexander Borodin was born in Saint Petersburg on November 12, 1833. He was the illegitimate son of Prince Luka Spanovich Gedianov, an elderly nobleman, and the beautiful and intelligent 24-year-old Avdotya Konstantinova Antonova. To save any public embarrassment, he was registered under the name of one of the Prince’s serfs, Pofiry Borodin.

He began taking lessons in composition from Mily Balakirev in 1862. While under Balakirev's tutelage in composition he began his Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, which  was first performed in 1869.

At the same time as writing his First Symphony, Borodin was also fulfilling his duties as Professor at the Medio-Surgical Academy in St Petersburg, and he helped to set up the first medical courses for women in Russia.

Alexander Borodin

In addition Borodin was one of the foremost chemists of his time, being particularly noted for his work on aldehydes. In 1872 he announced to the Russian Chemical Society the discovery of a new by-product in aldehyde reactions with alcohol-like properties.

With only a couple of major works behind him, word got out of Russia of Borodin’s extraordinary talent, and Franz Liszt took the burgeoning composer under his wing, conducting his music whenever he could. At this point Borodin wrote his symphonic picture, In the Steppes of Central Asia, which takes his unique Oriental style to unprecedented levels of poetic sensitivity.

His epic opera Prince Igor is seen by some to be Borodin's most significant work and one of the most important historical Russian operas. It contains the Polovtsian Dances, often performed as a stand-alone concert work which is probably Borodin's best known composition. He slaved away for years at Prince Igor, but it was left unfinished upon the composer's death in 1887 and the opera was edited and completed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov.

Aside from his musical and scientific commitments, Borodin was a devoted husband and was under considerable strain at home. His wife Ekaterina continually battled with asthma and had very unusual sleeping habits (4am to 2pm) and the couple adopted a seven-year-old girl. All these pressures contributed to Borodin’s premature death, at the age of 53 on February 27, 1887.


No comments:

Post a Comment