Borodin – Amazing Man and Music

One of my loves is Russian music of the later 19th century, That was when Russian music began. Previously there were no Music Conservatories, and no symphony orchestras giving regular concerts. Music was dominated by opera – Italian opera. In his lifetime, Alexander Borodin was seen as a professional Scientist and an amateur Artist. He had a medical degree, and was a research chemist, who made significant contributions to that discipline. He had no academic training in music, but Music was in his soul, and unable to be confined there. 

His life was chaotic, as he juggled his science with his music. He composed ‘bit by bit’, with breaks in between, and left his greatest work, the opera “Prince Igor” unfinished. It was brought to completion by his friend, and fellow composer, Rimsky-Korsakov. As a ‘nationalist’, aspiring to write ‘Russian’ music, rather than imitations of Italian, French and German, he could be considered progressively forward looking. The same applied to his opposition to the exclusion of women from medical training. He was one of the founders of the School of Medicine for Women in St. Petersburg.

The chaos in his life applied also to his living quarters inside the Academy of Medicine. He kept an ‘open house and table’, and the rooms in his apartment were under siege at all hours of the day and night, not only from students, but from family, friends and ‘others’, who came for food and free holidays, and slept in every nook and cranny – along with a ‘herd’ of cats, who stole food from the tables, and terrorised all and sundry with clawed leaps from all directions. By some musical ‘miracle’, this man became the first internationally known Russian composer, just ahead of Tchaikovsky. Understandably, he hasn’t left a lot of music, but what there is has given the world sublime lyrical beauty, and captivating rhythmic energy. It was looted to produce the musical “Kismet”, donating ‘And this is my Beloved” as well as ‘A Stranger in Paradise’ to popular culture. 

Here is a superb short film of a nocturne, arranged for cello and string orchestra. What a gift to give to the world – ‘romance, beauty and emotion’ in a few, beautiful moments of time …..

And here are the magnificent ‘Polovtsian Dances’ from “Prince Igor”. A Russian prince has been defeated by the Khan of the Polovtsian invaders, who has put on a show for his captured ‘guest’. Enjoy the original “Stranger in Paradise” lyricism, and the unbridled energy of the superb dancing. Borodin at his best …..

5 responses to “Borodin – Amazing Man and Music”

  1. Dear Ray,

    What a lovely summary you have provided here about Borodin’s musical talent! One could only surmise how much music he would have composed had he had the time and resources to devote his energy to creating musical compositions.

    The following is the “Nocturne” from Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 arranged for a full string orchestra. I never get sick of listening to it.

    Like Stranger in “Stranger in Paradise”, the “Nocturne” is highly lyrical and romantic. Both have been adapted into popular songs with lyrics.

    Yours sincerely,


  2. Dear Ray,

    The “Nocturne” from Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 has been transformed by Robert Wright and George Forrest into “And This Is My Beloved”, a popular song from the 1953 musical Kismet. The following is a very lush version sung by Jerry Vale:

    Please enjoy!

    Yours sincerely,


  3. Hi Soundeagle,
    I’m not too much of a purist, and I am too much of a romantic, not to enjoy Borodin being suitably borrowed for Kismet. The more people who hear this so movingly beautiful melody the better. Borodin arguably deserves as much.
    The music of both Borodin and Mussorgsky was, of course, completed and/or ‘improved’ by Rimsky-Korsakov et al, although Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bare Mountain’ can today rightly be heard in its superb original version, and the creative originality of his songs is now happily recognised.
    So, thanks for this link, which I much enjoyed. It is “lush” compared with other versions, but I think Jerry Vale obviously loves this music, and has rendered it with appropriate care, affection and respect.
    Regards from Ray.


  4. Dear Ray,

    Getting back to “Stranger in Paradise”, you may be surprised to be informed that another song called “My Fantasy” used the same melody as “Stranger in Paradise”. The song was recorded by Artie Shaw and sung by Pauline Byrne in 1940, though the lyrics differ completely from those of “Stranger in Paradise”.

    Yours sincerely,


  5. Dear Ray,

    Hello! Further to our shared fondness of Borodin’s music, I would like to inform you that I have modified the lyrics of “Stranger in Paradise” to produce new lyrics for my poem entitled “Stranger from Milky Way”, which can be perfectly sung over the song “Stranger in Paradise”. In other words, you can use my said poem “Stranger from Milky Way” to substitute for the lyrics of “Stranger in Paradise”, thus resulting in a song with new meanings. You can try this at my post entitled “One Day We’ll Fly Away“, available at

    Yours sincerely,


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