In the Steppes of Central Asia (Russian: В средней Азии, V srednyeĭ Azii, literally In Central Asia) is the common English title for a “musical tableau” (or symphonic poem) by Alexander Borodin, composed in 1880.
This orchestral work idyllically depicts an interaction of Russians and Asians in the steppe lands of the Caucasus. A caravan of Central Asians is crossing the desert under the protection of Russian troops. The opening theme, representing the Russians, is heard first (see chart of themes); then we hear the strains of an ornamented eastern melody on English horn, representing the Asians. These two melodies eventually are combined contrapuntally. Amidst these two ethnic melodies is heard a “traveling” theme in pizzicato that represents the plodding hoofs of the horses and camels. At the end only the Russian theme is heard.
Somewhat unusually, the two scores available via the IMSLP link below show different tempo markings at the start. The Eulenberg score is marked “Allegretto con moto”, whereas the Russian Muzica score shows “Allegro con moto”.
The composer provided the following description in a note to the score:
“In the silence of the monotonous steppes of Central Asia is heard the unfamiliar sound of a peaceful Russian song. From the distance we hear the approach of horses and camels and the bizarre and melancholy notes of an oriental melody. A caravan approaches, escorted by Russian soldiers, and continues safely on its way through the immense desert. It disappears slowly. The notes of the Russian and Asiatic melodies join in a common harmony, which dies away as the caravan disappears in the distance.”