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Alexander Porfir'evich Borodin (1833-1887)

    It is not often that a person's hobby results in the creation of a great masterpiece in classical music.
    Despite his versatility and exceptional achievements in different scientific fields, Borodin was a modest man and acknowledged himself as a dilettante in music; but it was his "hobby" that has made his name for posterity.
    His friend Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote: "Borodin was an exceedingly cordial and cultured man, pleasant and witty to talk with.  Visiting his house I often found him working in the laboratory which adjoined his apartment.  He sat over his retorts filled with a colourless gas and distilled it from one vessel into another."
    Borodin was primarily a scholar, a scientist with Europe-wide recognition, specializing in chemistry and medicine.  He led seminars and participated in numerous conferences
throughout the continent.  He wrote scientific reports in English, French, German and Italian.
    Borodin was the first to make medical education available for Russian women by establishing Medical Courses in 1862.
    In 1864 Borodin joined the Balakirev group of composers and it soon became known
as the "Mighty Five".  Borodin, together with other composers, founded the Free Music
Academy, advocating music education for everyone.  It was a school for common people who were unable to pay the fees of the Academy of Music in St. Petersburg, which had been founded by Anton Rubinstein.  That Academy, which was run by Rubinstein and established for rich townsfolk and the nobles, was also subsidized by the Imperial government.
    In 1869, Balakirev conducted Borodin's First Symphony, and that same year, encouraged by its success, Borodin began work on his own Second Symphony.
    Borodin's symphonies are among the earliest Russian compositions in this genre.  They are not only of epic scale but also of epic character, which determines all elements of musical language and distinguishes Borodin's symphonies from symphonies of other Russian composers.  Beethoven's idea of monothematism as embodied in Borodin's symphonies helps to show the agreed development of large-scale forms.
    It was no struggle for most Russian composers to become musically "Russian."  They always bore their national character, though very often Glinka and the "Mighty Five" preferred composing in different national traditions - Spanish, Polish and Eastern.  Applying themselves to these different cultures, composers first of all learned foreign folklore and then used this knowledge to treat their own music material accordingly.
    We often find here that the "Mighty Five" were Russian nationalists who struggled to create Russian music distinguished from any other.  In fact that was not their goal.  The Russian national music school was already established by Glinka and by the time of the "Mighty Five" it had already influenced many other European music schools. 
    The so-called antagonism of Rubinstein to the aesthetics of the "Mighty Five" is also extremely exaggerated.  Usually we read in Western researches that Rubinstein was a follower of the Western European tradition while the "Mighty Five" were extreme Russian nationalists.  Well, you can read it in books (paper will bear everything), but you cannot hear it in their music.
    The most popular of Borodin's symphonies is the Second ("Heroic"), though it was a failure at its premiere.  Liszt arranged another performance in Germany, in 1880, which brought Borodin the European acclaim.
    The Second symphony was composed simultaneously with his opera "Prince Igor".  Both works share similar images, ideas and ways of expression.
    Symphony #2 was especially loved by the French impressionists.  Ravel liked to entertain his friends playing the four-hand arrangement for piano with a partner.
   Among Borodin's compositions are the opera "Prince Igor" (completed by Rimsky-
Korsakov and Glazunov), three symphonies (the Third was completed by Glazunov),
orchestral pieces (the most popular is "In the Steppes of Central Asia"), two string quartets,
piano miniatures and romances.
    Borodin also was one of the founders of Russian chamber music.  The Borodin String
Quartet group has borne his name since 1945.
    It is interesting that Borodin and Mussorgsky both were illegitimate children and both
transcended their rough beginnings to become great composers and members of the "Mighty Five".  However, their deaths were very different.  Borodin died within seconds of having a heart attack while attending a fancy ball at the Medical Academy; and Mussorgsky died slowly and painfully, of alcoholism and poverty, in a public shelter.

    Evgeni Svetlanov (1928-2002) was born in Moscow.  He studied piano with Maria
Gurvich, composition with Mikhail Gnessin and Yuri Shaporin and conducting with Gauk.
After graduating from the Gnessin Institute and Moscow Conservatory he joined the staff
of the Bolshoi as a principal conductor (1963-1965).  In 1965 he became a leader of the
USSR Symphony orchestra and was in this position till 2000.
    In 1979 Svetlanov received the appointment as principal guest conductor at the London
Symphony Orchestra and the last concert in his life was given in London in 2002.  Svetlanov received numerous honors and awards: 1968 - People's Artist of the USSR; 1977 - the Order of Lenin; 1983 - Soviet State Prize for Creative Achievements; 1998 - Order for Meritorious Services to the Nation.  He also was awarded the Paris Grand Prix for his recording of the complete symphonies by Tchaikovsky.  Svetlanov's work at the position of principal conductor of the USSR Symphony Orchestra from 1965 till 2000 resulted in the performance and recording of almost the entire Russian symphonic repertoire.

2003 Evgeni Kostitsyn

Alexander Borodin
(1833 - 1887)

Symphony No. 1
in E flat major

1. Adagio Allegro - 13:20
2. Scherzo. Prestissimo - 6:37
3. Andante - 8:14
4. Finale. Allegro molto vivo - 6:37

Symphony No. 2
in B minor "Heroic"

5. Allegro - 9:06
6. Scherzo. Prestissimo - 5:27
7. Andante Finale. Allegro - 16:51

             Total time - 66:44

The USSR Symphony Orchestra
Evgeni Svetlanov, conductor

Recorded in 1983 (1-4), 1966 (5-7)
Recording engineers - Kozhukhova (1-4), Gaklin (5-7).

Cover painting "The Bogatyrs" by Victor Vasnetsov
Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn