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Classical Composers A-Z: Alexander Borodin

Peter Wintersgill outlines the life of the Russian composer Alexander Borodin,

Born
12th November 1833 in St. Petersburg

Father
Kleinecke, retired army doctor, well off. Natural father a Georgian prince.

Mother
Avdotya, beautiful and intelligent, gave him piano lessons.

Childhood
Educated by mother along with girl cousin. Showed early musical talent. Wrote piano pieces, including a polka.

Adolescence
Studied medicine at St. Petersburg, qualified 1855. Later studied chemistry at Heidelburg.

Adult Life
Became Professor of Chemistry at St. Petersburg Academy of Medicine in 1862, the year he married Ekaterina, a brilliant pianist. Because of his medical commitments, he was only a part-time composer. He met Balakirev and joined the Mighty Handful. About the same time he founded the Women’s School of Medicine.

He wrote three symphonies, the first in 1869 and the second in 1877. The third, being unfinished, was completed after his death by Glazunov.

He met Liszt at Weimar, who conducted the premiere of the first symphony. His work on his only opera Prince Igor was slow and unfinished, being finished after his death by Glazunov and Rimsky Korsakov.

Among his later works were the tone poem On the Steppes of Asia (1880), two string quartets and the setting of a poem of Pushkin’s following the death of Mussorgsky.

He died on the 27th February, 1887, in St. Petersburg, aged 53, of a heart attack.

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