String Trio in g minor for 2 Violins & Cello
While Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) is fairly well-known, it is his orchestral pieces and not his chamber music which has made his name. Nine out of ten people could not tell you that the famous Borodin melody in the popular Broadway musical Kismet is from his Second String Quartet. But Borodin wrote several lovely chamber music works. These fall into two distinct periods. The first is from his time in Germany during the late 1850's when he was doing post graduate work in chemistry. His main occupation was that of a Professor Chemistry at the university in St. Petersburg. Music was only a hobby he engaged in for relaxation. The second period dates from his time in St. Petersburg when he came under the influence of and received considerable help from Rimsky-Korsakov. Tchaikovsky was to quip, "Oh Borodin, a good chemist, but he cannot write a proper measure without Rimsky helping him."
The String Trio in g minor is one of the earliest works of Borodin which is extant. It dates from 1855, the time during which he was in Germany. It is relatively short and in one movement, a theme and set of eight variations. Unlike his other works from this period it escapes the influence of Mendelssohn, largely because of its use of a once well-known Russian folk song, What have I done to hurt you? as the theme. The treatment is closer to that by the Russian composer Alabiev who wrote several pieces of this kind with which Borodin would have been familiar. Several of the variations are quite original and extremely well done, demolishing the sarcastic criticism of Tchaikovky. Our sound-bite presents fragments (i.e. not the entire variation) from four different variations.
The Trio remained as a forgotten manuscript until it was finally published by the Soviet State Music Publishers toward the mid-20th century. That edition was only briefly available in the West. Our edition is a reprint of the Soviet edition. Although we have spent considerable time cleaning up smudges and other detritus one encounters in Soviet editions, there is only so much that can be done. Our edition is a performance edition, printed on high quality paper and quite readable, with errors corrected. It is simply not as crisp or spotless as the typical Western edition because of the original off of which we had to work. The price, less than our generally very low prices, reflects this fact. Trios for 2 Violins and Cello after 1800 became a rarity. There are very few from the Romantic period and as such this is a useful addition to the literature.