Unlike most composers, Alexander Borodin was trained as a scientist and medical doctor; his primary career was that of a very successful professor of chemistry. He was an amateur musician who played the piano, flute and cello and who enjoyed composing in his spare time. Borodin was one of the five Russian composers known as the Mighty Handful, who were active at the end of the 19th century. Others in this group include Modest Mussorgsky, César Cui, Mily Balakirev and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Borodin’s life was incredibly busy and his apartment was continually filled with visitors and family. It is surprising that he created as much music as he did. His most famous composition is the opera, Prince Igor, on which he worked for nearly twenty years. It was never finished; his friends, Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunow, completed it after his death.
Borodin’s music contains wonderful melodies that remind the listener of old Russia. The Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor supplied the melody for a famous 20th century popular song, Stranger in Paradise.