Aleksandr Borodin Biography

Aleksandr Borodin was a prodigal Russian music composer and scientist. This biography gives detailed information about his childhood, life, works, achievements and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: November 12, 1833

Nationality: Russian

Famous: Chemists Organic Chemists

Died At Age: 53

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Born in: Saint Petersburg

Famous as: Composer, Chemist

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Spouse/Ex-: Ekaterina Sergeyevna Protopopova

father: Luka Gedevanishvili

mother: Evdokia Konstantinovna Antonova

children: Liza Balaneva (adopted)

Died on: February 27, 1887

place of death: Saint Petersburg

More Facts

awards: 1954 - Tony Award

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Alexander Borodin was a well-known music composer, doctor, chemist and philanthropist. He developed an interest towards chamber music while pursuing his chemical studies. He composed many symphonies, out of which “Prince Igor” is considered to be his best work. It was Franz Liszt, a Hungarian composer who helped him to earn fame as a music composer outside of the Russian Empire. Strong lyrical quality and presence of rich musical harmony are some of the features of his music composition. He developed a close acquaintance with Mily Balakirev who was a champion of Russian nationalistic music. He was greatly inspired by the works of Balakirev. He was a member of the group of composers called ‘The Five’ of Russia (Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin) whose goal was to create an exclusive style of Russian art music. As a chemist, he discovered the ‘Aldol-reaction/condensation’, which has a very important role in the field of organic chemistry. He published several scientific papers on his research studies. In one of his scientific papers, he shared his idea about the identification of urea in animal urine. St. Petersburg Medical School for Women was founded by him, which established him as a great philanthropist.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • In 1862, he came back to St. Petersburg and taught Chemistry at the Imperial Medical-Surgical Academy. There, he worked on self-condensation of small aldehydes. At the same time, he pursued music as a hobby and played the piano.
  • The first symphony he composed was in 1862, under the guidance of Mily Balakirev. In 1864, he published his papers of experimental work on self-condensation of small aldehydes.
  • He started composing his “Symphony No. 2” in 1869. Simultaneously, he remained busy in scientific research and delivery of lectures.
  • His interest in the field of organic chemistry led him to discover the ‘Aldol-reaction/condensation’ in 1872. In the same year, he set up medical courses for women. The same year, he declared about the discovery of a new by-product in aldehyde reaction with alcohol-like properties to the Russian Chemical Society.
  • In his last article on reactions of amides that he published in 1875, he discussed about a method of the identification of urea in animal urine. In 1877, for the first time, he performed his “Symphony No. 1” outside of Russia.
Major Works
  • He composed “In the Steppes of Central Asia”, a symphonic poem, in 1880. This orchestral work represents an interaction of Russians and Asians in the steppe lands of the Caucasus.
  • His “Prince Igor” is an opera in four acts along with a prologue. Considered as his masterpiece, it includes “Polevetsian Dances”. Based on the incident of Polovtsinas’ invasion of Southern Russia in the 12th century, this opera tells the story of the capture of Prince Igor.
  • He composed “String Quartet No. 2”, a work in four movements in 1881. One can notice a perfect amalgamation of harmony of four musical instruments. One of its movements “Nocturne” is truly praiseworthy for its lyrical quality.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • In 1863, he married Ekaterina Protopova, who was a Russian pianist. They adopted a child namely Liza Balaneva.
  • After suffering from cholera and several minor heart attacks, he passed away suddenly.
  • His work “Prince Igor” was completed posthumously by Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov. “The Borodin Quartet”, a string quartet, is named in his honor. The name "Alexander Borodin” was used as a fictional character by the chemist Alexander Shulgin in his books “PiHKAL” and “TiHKAL”.
  • Robert Wright and George Forrest used the musical composition of this great musician in their musical “Kismet” in 1953. Due to the success of this musical, this music maestro received a Tony award posthumously in 1954.

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- Aleksandr Borodin Biography
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Last Updated
- October 04, 2017
Aleksandr Borodin

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