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Length: c. 7 minutes

About this Piece

This following note, written in Russian, German, and French, appears in the score: “Out of the silence of Central Asia come the sounds of a peaceful Russian song. There are heard, too, the melancholy strains of Eastern melodies and the stamping of approaching horses and camels. A caravan, escorted by Russian soldiers, crosses the measureless desert, pursuing its way, free from care, under the protection of Russian arms. The caravan moves ever forward. The songs of the Russians and those of the Asia locals mingle in common harmony, their refrain gradually dying away in the distance.”

Composed in 1880 and originally intended as a background for a series of tableaux vivants to take place in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the reign of Alexander III, this work gave Borodin much of his fame as a composer. In 1881, during a journey to Weimar, Borodin visited Liszt and in a letter informed his wife that “Liszt had been so pleased with ‘The Steppes’ that he urged the making of a four-hand piano arrangement at once.” Incidentally, on this occasion, Borodin dedicated the work to the Hungarian artist.

—Mary Mayer