Saturday, November 12, 2016

Born Today November 12: Aleksandr Borodin


Russian romantic composer Alexksandr (westernized to Alexander) Porfiryevich Borodin was born on this day in St. Petersburg a central city in the Russian Empire. Borodin was the illegitimate son of a Georgian nobleman and a married young Russian woman.  His biological father had him registered as being the son of one of his Russian serfs, Porfiry Borodin, hence his last name.  Condemning him to the life of a serf for at least the first 7 years of his life, his nobleman father emancipated him from serfdom then and provided him with shelter and money for his up keep.  Though he lived under the same roof with his biological mother, she would never publicly acknowledge him, and he would grow up calling her "aunt."  After training as and working as a chemist, Borodin would go on to be tutored by Russian pianist and composer Mily Balakirev.  He then began to compose his own works, which ranged from chamber works (string quartets) to symphonies; he also penned one opera.  The reason for his inclusion here is that a chamber work, the string quartet In The Steppes of Central Asia was used as a provided soundtrack for the 1909 film Moscow Clad In Snow.  This little 7 minute documentary, produced by France's Pathé Freres, shows several areas in the city under wintery and blizzard conditions.  This was the only film to deliberately make use of his music during the silent era.  Since the advent of talking pictures, however his music has shown up in many, many films; oddly, the most recent is this year's horror anthology Holidays.  Borordin died of a heart attack on the 27th of February 1887 in his birth city of St. Petersburg.  He had always severed from health trouble, having contracted cholera as a child, which led to a series of small heart attacks as an adult.  He was only 53 years of age.  He is buried in a an elaborate tomb in St. Petersburg's Tikhvin Cemetery, along with several other luminaries, many of them composers, including his old tutor Balakirev.  For more on his life, follow links below. His music can be found on both Spotify and Pandora. 

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