Alexander Borodin: Symphony No. 1 in Eb

Performed by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra under Gennady Rozhdestvensky

There’s no article for Wikipedia on this, but other sources reveal it was premiered in 1868 by Borodin’s mentor, Mily Balakirev. I had heard somewhere that Balakirev also helped Rimsky-Korsakov with (and conducted the premiere of) his first symphony. Balakirev encouraged RK to continue work on the first movement. He did so, but apparently made a disaster of the orchestration. Balakirev came to the rescue again, getting RK started by helping him orchestrate the first page. He did well after that. But later, RK said of Balakirev:

“[I] was convinced that Balakirev knew everything in the world, and he cleverly concealed from me and the others [among ‘The Five’] the insufficiency of his information.”

I digress.

Back to Borodin. I’m not sure what kind of assistance Balakirev may have provided in the writing of this first symphony, but it feels like solid, confident writing. The first two movements are energetic and bold and Russian. The third movement, Andante, is absolutely gorgeous. Warm and swelling and fluid and moving and cozy. The fourth gets back to the bold energetic liveliness of the beginning. I should write about this in more detail because I immediately loved every minute of this. It’s fantastic.

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