Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin (1833-1887)

Overture: Prince Igor (1887)

Realised by Alexander Glazunov

Borodin began the composition of his opera Prince Igor in September 1869 at the suggestion of his friend Vladimir Stasov, who provided an outline of the work. He worked on it for the rest of his life, but his progress was hampered by his own self critical personality, and by the demanding post he held as professor of Chemistry at the Medical Academy in St. Petersburg. Stasov, giving up on Borodin, asked Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov if he would compose the opera. However Rimsky chose to assist Borodin instead, most notably with the orchestration of the famous Polovtsian Dances for a concert performance in 1879. At Borodin's death there were still many parts for which there were only rough sketches and some for which no music or libretto existed.

The overture was largely constructed by Glazunov who had to rely on his memory of hearing it played by Borodin on the piano. In a memoir of 1891 Glazunov wrote:

"The overture was composed by me roughly according to Borodin's plan. I took the themes from the corresponding numbers of the opera and was fortunate enough to find the canonic ending of the second subject among the composer's sketches. I slightly altered the fanfares for the overture ... The bass progression in the middle I found noted down on a scrap of paper, and the combination of the two themes (Igor's aria and a phrase from the trio) was also discovered among the composer's papers. A few bars at the very end were composed by me."

Notwithstanding it's extraordinary creation the Overture has remained a very popular concert piece.

The Prince Igor Overture was performed by the Portobello Orchestra on the 6th December 2014, conducted by Matthew Rogers.