It seems strange that such a celebrated composer as Alexander Borodin actually spent much of his life as a distinguished research chemist. While working as a professor in Chemistry at the University of St Petersburg in 1862, Borodin met pivotal composer Mily Balakirev, who encouraged him to explore the musical world, and began to tutor him in harmony and counterpoint. The rest, as they say, is history.
The First Symphony is notable for the rhythmic interest of the first movement and the lively second movement, which shows the influence of Mendelssohn, with the third movement full of heartfelt romanticism– a fitting contrast to the resplendent final movement. The work is followed by In the Steppes of Central Asia, a symphonic poem dedicated to Franz Liszt and in which Russian and Asiatic folk-tunes are combined with other techniques to create a utopian image of the Russian landscape. Then comes the iconic Symphony No.2, regarded by many as the pinnacle of Borodin’s symphonic achievement. Completing the line-up is the Symphony No.3 in A minor – a work that remained unfinished at the time of Borodin’s death but was later completed by the young prodigy Alexander Glazunov, who perfectly captured the older composer’s style.
The Symphonies are performed by the Symphony Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre, conducted by Mark Ermler, while In the Steppes of Central Asia is played by Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Loris Tjeknavorian.
- Recorded 1994, 1996 & 2000.
- The symphonies of Alexander Borodin, the chemist/”amateur”-composer, have a distinct Russian character, in the refined orchestral textures in the Mendelssohn/Schumann tradition, infused with folkloristic elements and a general feel of the melancholy of Russian landscapes.
- Excellent performances by the elite orchestra of the Bolshoi, conducted by Mark Ermler, a specialist in Russian repertoire.
- Contains extensive notes on the composer and music.