Alexander Borodin’s Funny Meters and Pulses

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Composer Alexander Borodin: not "governed by bar lines"(Photo: Unknown)
Composer Alexander Borodin: not "governed by bar lines"(Photo: Unknown)

Boyce Lancaster talks with Maestro Albert-George Schram, former staff conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, about Alexander Borodin’s 2nd Symphony, with its unique, “funny” meters and pulses that – ultimately – work.

Borodin was a medical teacher by profession, and his career interrupted his compositions such that his second symphony took about nine years to complete. Regarding Borodin’s attempt to revise his score, Franz Liszt said

Heaven forbid! Do not touch it; alter nothing. Your modulations are neither extravagant nor faulty. Yours (sic) artistic instinct is such that you need not fear to be original. Do not listen to those who would deter you from following your own way.

[audio src="http://wosu.org/audio/classical/2006/Borodin2ndSymphony.mp3"]

Highlights From This Interview:

Albert-George: “He’s got very funny meters and pulses in his symphony. The symphony works fine. Undeniably. But still I have the feeling that Borodin did not really know too much about being governed by bar lines. He just had a free muse. He just sort of did it. And so, on paper, it looks awkward.”

Albert-George: “Some of the phrases and phrasings he wrote for the symphony orchestra, in the 2nd Symphony in particular, I remember looking at it for the first time and thinking ‘What a klutz.’ But basically he was not as refined in technique. And the tunes work.”

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