Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Alexander Borodin – Prince Igor


   The interesting lineament of 19th century music in Russia was the fact most composers were simultaneously physicians or lawyers. The reason of such situation was simple – only in wealthy families children have high quality education. And although in upper class artistic success was priced, there was a strong emphasis on skills that can provide social security. Medicine was one of most popular. Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) who was illegitimate son of Georgian nobleman was educated in best possible institutions. In those times it was typical he received his name from servant, but was taken care of his real father. And as many other composers first he has made his career in practical domain. He was military surgeon and scientis in the field of chemistry. Although he has been successful chemist, authoring some revealing reactions, he was famous only as the composer. He had sometimes complained of such one-sided appreciation.
   In absolute numbers list of Borodin’s musical works is not too much impressive. Some songs and piano compositions, few chamber forks, three symphonies and one symphonic poem In the Steppes of Central Asia. The opera works, he is most famous for, are in fact only four titles where first The Tzar’s Bride from 1868 was in sketches and lost, and next three were unfinished: second Bogatyri, third Prince Igor, and last Mlada co-authored with César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Leon Minkus. But operas, even unfinished, became his greatest achievement into Russian musical heritage. Most famous is Prince Igor (Князь Игорь) in four acts with prologue. After composer’s death, opera was completed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov and premiered in St. Petersburg in 1890.

Alexander Borodin – Prince Igor (1970)

   Opera story of 12th century prince Igor Svyatoslavich who survives Polovtsian bondage and save his homeland was based on Old Russian epic poem The Tale of Igor’s Campaign. Legends on beginnings of nations were the heart of romantic ideas and main current of romantic narratives. Thus grand historic opera Prince Igor become one of pillars in Russian romantic repertoire. 80 years after first performance full version of Borodin’s work was recorded and published by Melodia as complete of five LP records in cassette. Long list of great voices comprises Ivan Petrov in the role of title hero Prince Igor, Alexander Vedernikov as Khan Kontchak, tenor Vladimir Atlantov as Prince Igor's son, Tatiana Tougarinova in the role of Igor's wife Iaroslavna, Elena Obraztova as the daughter of Khan Kontchak. Choir and Orchestra of Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow conducted by Mark Ermler are elements of perfect ensemble. Well executed, perfectly sung, consequently set, after almost half century this recording is still considerable worthy esthetic and intellectual experience. Four stars for great musical contents.

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