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Alexander Nikolayevich TCHEREPNIN (1899Ė1977)
Piano Concerto No. 2 op. 26 (1923) [19:15]
Piano Concerto No. 4 Fantasie op. 78 (1945) [29:15]
Piano Concerto No. 6 op. 99 (1965) [27:28]
Murray McLachlan (piano)
Chethamís Symphony Orchestra/Julian Clayton
rec. Studio 7, BBC Manchester, 1994-5. DDD
recorded in association with the Belaieff Foundation
REGIS FORUM FRC 9110 [76:10]

The Tcherepnins form a Russian musical dynasty. Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873-1945) is the father, Alexander Tcherepnin (1899-1977), the son and Ivan Tcherepnin (1943-1998), the son of Alexander. Alexander grew up in an affluent and musical family. The family house welcomed the leading artistic lights of Russian society. The 1917 Revolution changed everything for the Tcherepnins and by degrees they emigrated - first Georgia, then Paris in the 1920s.
The present disc is presumably the first of two with the second Forum disc to present the odd numbered piano concertos licensed out from the now defunct Olympia. Whether there is a second disc will depend on how well this one does.

Long before the 1999 BIS series, which mixes Alexander Tcherepninís four symphonies with the last two piano concertos, all six of the piano concertos were given their first integral recording. This Olympia project involved Murray McLachlan, Chethamís School in Manchester and conductor Julian Clayton. The two Olympias were issued differently coupled from the present disc. Olympia OCD439 (2, 3, 6) came in November 1994 and OCD 440 (1, 4, 5) in December 1995.
For ease of reference those full price BIS discs issued in 1999 are: symphonies 1 and 2 with Piano Concerto No. 5 BIS CD-1017; symphonies 3 and 4 with Piano Concerto No. 6 BIS CD-1018 (see review). There was a separate disc with concertos 2 and 4 (see review). The orchestra was the Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lan Shui. Well worth seeking out.
Back in the golden days of the LP, piano concertos 2 and 5 were recorded with the composer as soloist and with Rafael Kubelik conducting the Bavarian State Radio Orchestra. That was in 1968 on Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft DGG 139 379 then later on DG 453 157-2.
The Second Concerto has all the sassiness of Prokofiev. The writing is chipper with infusions from Stravinsky and even Balakirev (Islamey) at one point. Players, soloist and orchestra, are on their toes ready to deliver the required lunge and riposte. The work is not perhaps as Parisian-superficial as the notes might suggest. There are some affecting moments too especially in the slow-dawning climax of the finale even if it does then dash back into Love of Three Oranges absurdism. This concerto was premiered in a two piano version in Paris by the composer and Nadia Boulanger. The orchestral first performance took place in Brest in 1925. The work was originally for small orchestra. A full specification orchestra was imported in the composerís 1950 revisions and it is this we hear.
Alexander concertised in the Far East during the 1930s. He married Hsien Ming Tcherepnin (1911-1991) the Chinese concert pianist. The Fourth Piano Concerto is from 1947 two years after the death of his father Nikolai and carries overt Chinese influences. The movement titles are Eastern Chamber Dream, Yan Kuei Feiís Love Sacrifice and Road to Yunnan. Rubbing shoulders with the Chinese voices are the styles of Prokofiev and Stravinsky. The music-making is precise, the orchestration lucidly outlined and clean, often witty as in the motoric ice-sculptures of the Love Sacrifice movement. This contrasts with the romantic yield and yearn of a melody (1:40) of Chinese sentimental reach in that middle movement. The Road to Yunnan is a pleasantly skipping affair depicting the joyful march to Yunnan. This work is overall more of a tart and peppery suite than a concerto but frankly who cares.
The three movement Sixth - and last - Piano Concerto shows that Tcherepnin to the last remained the craftsman. His clear, transparent textures are here churned with a measure - a modest measure - of dissonance; it was, after all, 1965. The commission had come from Swiss pianist Margrit Weber who back in 1961 had recorded Tcherepninís Ten Bagatelles for piano and orchestra, Op. 5. This recording later appeared on DG Galleria 463 085-2. The Sixth is a dashing work and in the outer movements much inventive - even festive - use is made of percussion. Thereís also plenty of rhythmic ingenuity to tickle the ear in Stravinskian and other accents. The kernel of the work is the drippingly romantic Andantino which can be heard as a distant echo of the Russian-Oriental romantic tradition so beloved of his father Nikolai.
The Tcherepnin Society website - certainly worth a detour - promotes all three musical Tcherepnins: Nikolai, Alexander and Ivan.
At its very modest price this disc offers the pick of Tcherepninís six piano concertos played by a master of the genre and an alert and accomplished orchestra. Inventive and engaging music bridging the gap between Stravinsky and Prokofiev presented with sharply defined clarity.
Rob Barnett





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