Borodin – In the Steppes of Central Asia

by Max Derrickson

Alexander Borodin (1833- 1887)

In the Steppes of Central Asia


Between Russia and China lies a fantastic expanse of land that rises in a great staircase to the “Rooftop of the World” in Nepal.  In Borodin’s time, one could travel through the steppes—the high desert of Eurasia—in this staircase and come back with wondrous stories to tell.  To an Imperialist Russia, the steppes were a potential bag of riches, or, at the very least, more land to conquer.  To the people, the steppes captured the imagination, leading to a Far East of wild unknown.

In 1867, a royal concert of music, dance, and drama was planned to celebrate the twentieth year of the reign of Tsar Alexander II.  Alexander Borodin was asked to compose a work for this Tsarist jubilee.  He chose to write a “picture piece” alluding to the riches but focusing on the great beauty of the steppes.  Audiences have cherished the work since its creation.

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The light program (story) of “In the Steppes of Central Asia” is of a Russian caravan making its way east through the magnificent, sandy steppes.
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