Programme notes

Polovtsian Dances, Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)

Alexander Borodin: qualified doctor, respected research chemist by trade, enthusiastic advocate for women’s rights who founded the School of Medicine for Women in St Petersburg, cellist—oh yes, and composer.

The dances, part of a ballet in Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, are one of the rare pieces that, very appropriately given their warlike energy, sprang across the gap between art music and popular music to become pieces that most people have heard somewhere, some time, without always knowing what they are or where they came from. Given the way they’ve been used by other musicians, Borodin must really regret the lack of royalties in the after-life. You may remember the musical Kismet which lifted all of its tunes from his work; but did you know that people who have used these tunes include Julio Iglesias and Massive Attack?

Mike Torbe

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