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Borodin, the illegitimate son of a 62-year-old Georgian prince, was born in 1833, brought up in St Petersburg, and forced to study medicine. He was not really suited to this profession as the sight of blood caused him to faint and, following a short time as a military doctor, became a laboratory assistant, later distinguishing himself as a research chemist.
He began work on Prince Igor in 1869, but he was so busy outside music that it was postponed, though, between 1871 and 1874, he incorporated some of his operatic sketches from the opera in his Second Symphony. When he resumed work on the opera in 1874, the Polovtsian Dances were among the first numbers to be written. However, he never completed the piece and it was left to Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov, two of the other members of the 'Mighty Handful' of young Russian composers, to orchestrate the whole opera for its premiere performances in St Petersburg in 1890.
The version you hear tonight has been arranged for orchestral wind by Peter Franks.
© Peter Franks