Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)
Requiem (arr Stokowski)
In 1977, Borodin inadvertently initiated the composition of a set of composite piano pieces based on a children's theme which is famous in Russia as Tati-tati, but universally renowned as Chopsticks.
It all started with a Polka - which probably had its musical prototype in Dargomyzhsky's curiously named Slavonic Tarentella for Performing with Those who Cannot Play - featuring a simple ostinato part for a second player.
Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui and Liadov were so enchanted with Borodin's clever little Polka that they all decided to write pieces themselves, using the same, incessantly repeated underlying theme. Borodin, not to be outdone, added two more pieces, a Requiem and a March. Borodin had a great reputation within his circle for his humorous improvisations at the piano, and Stasov conjectures that these two pieces are probably transcriptions which were commissioned to capture Borodin's spontaneous flights of fancy.
It is not known why Leopold Stokowski made his imposing orchestral arrangement of the Requiem, since no public performance has been traced. The score and parts do, however, reside in the Leopold Stokowski Collection at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and were provided from this source for the present recording. Stokowski's larger-than-life, highly coloured orchestral palette somehow manages to combine with the utter simplicity of Borodin's theme and accompaniment to produce a result which is entirely convincing in its power and majesty.
In Borodin's original piano version, the words:
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
(God grant them, Lord, eternal rest and may perpetual light shine upon them.)
are indicated for a solo tenor voice and a male chorus. In this world premiere recording, they have been incorporated as an addition to Stokowski's purely orchestral forces.