Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin: 12 Nov 1833 – 27 Feb 1887

By | August 18, 2020


Black and white portrait of Alexander Borodin in his early thirties

Alexander Borodin was a Russian composer, however during his life he considered himself primarily as a doctor and chemist to which he made some notable contributions.

He was the illegitimate son on a Georgian nobleman but was registered as the son of one of his peasants (serfs) to protect his father’s name. However, at the age of seven his father freed Borodin from serfdom and ensured he and his mother was provided for.

Borodin showed a gift for music and languages as a school boy and learnt to to play the piano, flute, cello and compose.

Education & Works

In 1850 he went to Western Europe to further his education in Medicine, and received a doctorate. On his return to Russia in 1862 he became adjunct professor of chemistry at the Medico-Surgical Academy then full professor two years later. It was at this time that he produced his first important works the Symphony No.1 in E-flat Major.

He was part of a group of Russian composers known as the ‘Mighty Handful’ or ‘The Five’ – whom removed themselves from Classical Western music to produce music unique to Russia.

Borodin lost interest in his second symphony and generated a passion for opera. In 1868 Borodin he wrote ‘Prince Igor’ which some consider to be his most impressive work, it contains Polovtsian dances.

Despite other members of ‘The Five’ being hostile to chamber music Borodin wrote his first string quartet in 1875 and his second in 1881 with its popular third movement Nocturne (click here to view arrangements from music-scores).

His music influenced the likes of Debussy and Ravel with its unusual harmonies.

Music was always a distraction and form of relaxation for Borodin as he continued to strive forward in medicine. In the 1880’s due to poor health and the pressures of work he died quite suddenly whilst attending a Ball in St Petersburg.

Further Reading & Musical Downloads

At we have over fifteen arrangements for you of Alexander Borodin’s compositions. For further information take a look at Wikipedia  and Britannica.

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