String Quartet No. 2 in D Major Notturno (1881) – Alexander Borodin


I challenge long-term happily married couples to top this romantic gesture. According to Alexander Borodin’s biographer Serge Dianin, this quartet was composed as Borodin’s  20th Anniversary gift to his wife Ekaterina Protopova. Not only was he a Russian music composer (of Georgian heritage) but also a doctor and chemist. Romantic chemistry would appear to be one of his fortes but he regarded his musical composition as just a spare time pursuit although he is better known these days as a composer.

This chemist in his day was best known in his profession for his work concerning organic synthesis, and co-discoverer of the aldol reaction. Borodin was a promoter of education in Russia and founded the School of Medicine for Women in Saint Petersburg, where he taught until 1885. Borodin was born in Saint Petersburg as an illegitimate son of a 62-year-old Georgian nobleman and a married 25-year-old Russian woman. The nobleman had him registered as the son of one of his Russian serfs, Porfiry Borodin, hence the composer’s Russian last name. Thankfully Borodin was well provided for by his Georgian father.

The third movement below Notturno is the most popular of the 4 movements he wrote. According to wikipedia Borodin was one of the prominent 19th-century composers known as “The Mighty Handful”, a group dedicated to producing a uniquely Russian kind of classical music, rather than imitating earlier Western European models. The third movement also serves as the score to Disney’s 2006 short The Little Matchgirl and as an excerpt of the piece played in the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery. His music is noted for its strong lyricism and rich harmonies.

1. Alexander Borodin – wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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7 comments on “String Quartet No. 2 in D Major Notturno (1881) – Alexander Borodin
  1. Thanks for putting us onto this, Matthew. I like Borodin’s music but didn’t know this at all. It’s lovely, and I shall seek out the other movements. The Georgian nobleman would be kicking himself if he was alive, not passing on his noble name to someone famous!

  2. selizabryangmailcom says:

    That’s beautiful. I definitely think I’m more fond of string instruments than any other, especially the cello. I always find it amazing when people are scientific AND artistic. I know there’s an element of precision and even mathematical principles involved in music, but it’s also beautiful and generally emotional–something science lacks. I looked up the “aldol reaction” which I’ve never heard of. What an interesting guy!
    Also, we failed the 20 year romantic challenge, as we have been married beyond 20 years, and on top of that, we don’t even celebrate our anniversary, hahaha.

    • I too am fascinated by how people can be both scientific and artistic like Borodin. I also looked up the ‘Aldol reaction’, but couldn’t make hide nor hair of it as Chemistry was never my strong suit. I preferred Physics at school which I still enjoy learning about up to this day consuming Cosmology and Quantum Mechanics lectures online.

      I’m sorry you guys don’t celebrate your anniversaries. Come to think of it, I can’t remember my folks who were married a long time doing anything lavishing on that front. hehe

  3. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Aw, don’t be sorry. It’s just not important to us. I guess the fact that we’re still married, each year, is the celebration itself, ha ha ha.

    Yeah, that Aldol reaction–say what now?! It’s just all Latin to me. So you like Physics, huh? I didn’t like any of the math/sciences, really, but I did find myself enjoying Geometry a lot of the time. But that’s the only one!

    • Congratulations of having been married such a long time! It’s such a rarity these days and I think couples like you and your husband need to be reminded of how important that union is to the fabric and wellbeing of our society and a great testament to your characters.

      Aren’t there people who renew their vows on an annual basis? And I don’t mean just to celebrate their anniversary, rather to confirm they want be married for another 12 months to that person lol Gay friends of mine in Melbourne did that.

      Yeh, Geometry is cool. I loved Maths at school.

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