Alexander Borodin only wrote two complete symphonies and fragments of a third. In discovering this wonderful composer of late, I’m at the same time heartbroken at his relatively small output, but also amazed at its quality. This is a man who seems to have pulled in so many different directions in his life of only 54 years that he’s lucky to have got any work done at all, much less work this good.
Borodin’s Symphony No. 1 in E-flat was premiered in 1867, after Borodin spent nearly five years working on it, after his initial training by Mily Balakirev. The resulting work shows the seams of an inexperienced artist at work, and various critics have noted a debt to Robert Schumann in terms of style, but Borodin’s melodic gifts and knack for exotic color in his orchestrations is already evident.
Here is Borodin’s Symphony No. 1.
Next week, the Symphony No. 2.