Monday, August 30, 2004

Sing, Sing-a-ling-a

I picked up an excellent two-CD collection, The Essential Borodin, that collects fine performances of most of the major pieces of composer/chemist/procrastinator Alexander Borodin. Part of the fun of listening to Borodin, if you're a fan of the musical Kismet, is to identify the sources of the songs in that show; composer-lyricists Robert Wright and George Forrest took melodic ideas from Borodin, from pieces both famous and obscure, and re-shaped them into Broadway songs with an A-A-B-A structure. (The way most of the Kismet songs work is that the melody of the "A" section is Borodin, while the "B" section is newly-composed by Wright and Forrest to fit in with the style of the main melody.) Here's how the list of songs and sources breaks down:

- "Sands of Time": Borodin's "In the Steppes of Central Asia," basically unchanged, and with lyrics fitted to the second of the two main melodies of that piece.
- "Rhymes Have I": Wright and Forrest claimed that this was their own original music (though the liner note to the original cast album says it has some connection to a melody "Prince Igor").
- "Fate": The main theme of the first movement of Borodin's second symphony.
- "Bazaar of the Caravans": the finale of the second symphony.
- "Not Since Nineveh": the opening and closing musical phrases of the refrain are taken from the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor.
- "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads": the scherzo of Borodin's second string quartet.
- "Stranger in Paradise": another tune from the Polovtsian Dances.
- "He's in Love!": still another tune from the Polovtsian Dances.
- "Gesticulate": the long section at the beginning of the number ("Dear hand, deft hand") fits new words to the virtually-unchanged music of Konchak's aria from Prince Igor. The refrain ("When you tell a story") is taken from the finale of Borodin's first symphony.
- "Night of My Nights": this is a setting of a piano piece by Borodin, but I can't remember the name of it (it's not in the collection).
- "Was I Wazir?": I have no idea about this one; the cast album liner note says it comes from the second string quartet, but I can't hear anything in that piece that could have become that song. I think it's basically an original composition by Wright and Forrest.
- "Rahadlakum": another original, non-Borodin melody by Wright and Forrest.
- "And This is My Beloved": the slow movement of the second string quartet ("Nocturne").
- "The Olive Tree": a duet from Prince Igor (also quoted in the overture).
- "Zubbediya": Galitsky's aria from Prince Igor.

Wright and Forrest had already had a hit adapting the melodies of Grieg in Song of Norway, and a few years after Kismet they would have a mega-flop with their Rachmaninov-based score for Anya (a musical version of Anastasia).

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