By Alexander Borodin
By profession an eminent chemist and professor, Borodin (1833-1887) was also a member of a Russian musical circle which included Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.
The Polovtsian Dances come from the second act of the opera, in which the Khan of the Polovtsi, a Mongol tribe, is entertaining Prince Igor, whom he has taken captive.
While a chorus is used when the dances are played in the opera, they are often played by instruments alone in a concert setting, as we are doing today. An initial processional characterized by wind solos against a plucked string and harp accompaniment gives way to a series of dances alternatively featuring dancing girls, warriors (fast descending clarinet motif); and young boys (leaping wind and string motifs). An accelerating coda brings the piece to its conclusion.