Tag Archives: Russian history

The symphony that almost wasn’t

My favorite symphony was within a heartbeat of never becoming reality.  This excerpt from The Mighty Five by Victor Seroff explains:

“Yet Ludmilla clung to her belief in her friends.  To force Borodin to finish work on his Second Symphony, she asked Napravnik to perform it during the approaching season, and presented Borodin on his return from the country with the fait accompli.  This threw him into a panic, for besides the fact that the symphony was unfinished and he had not written a single bar on it in the past year, he discovered that he had put the scores of the first movement and the finale in such a safe place that he could not find them. . . To make matters worse, Borodin fell ill, and it was while in bed with his head wrapped in compresses that he rewrote in pencil the score of the Second Symphony.”

Against such odds, a piece of music so beautiful it gives me chills to think about it was created.  If you can find a good recording of it and have a chance to really listen, you won’t be sorry.

Of Korsakov

One of the greatest composers (in my book) was Nicolay Rimsky-Korsakov, and he came from a fine and liberal-minded family, according to the book I just finished: “Even at the time that serfdom was in existence, the Rimskys had only hired servants in their house.  When his father was offered three hundred souls (i.e., serfs) as a reward for one of his services to the government he declined, saying that he did not know how to take care of even one soul – his own.”   — from The Mighty Five, by Victor Seroff.  The book is an excellent portrayal of the five great 19th Century Russian composers, who formed a close-knit group and collaborated on many of their most famous works.