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Nikolai TCHEREPNIN (1873–1945)
Fairy Tales, Op. 33 (1905) [14:14]
Four Songs, Op. 16 (1903) [15:18]
Japanese Lyrics, Op. 52 (1923) [13:59]
Four Songs, Op. 8 (1900) [12:08]
Oceanic Suite, Op. 53 (1917) [23:37]
Elena Mindlina (soprano)
David Witten (piano)
rec. 7-8, 10-11 June 2013, Distler Performance Hall, Tufts University, Boston.

Of the Tcherepnin dynasty Nikolai is the father of the lineage. His music is close to the world of Rimsky-Korsakov, his teacher, and to the world of early Prokofiev, his pupil. Those remarks need to be filled out a little in the context of this very fully-packed CD; Tcherepnin wrote about ninety songs; about the same number as Rachmaninov. They are highly romantic in the manner of Rachmaninov and with a strong vein of impressionism. I have no doubt at all that if you already have favourites among the latter’s songs then you can buy this collection with complete confidence.
David Witten is a mature and sensitive pianist who has already recorded Nikolai’s piano music for Toccata (TOCC0117: Three Pieces; Sketches on Pictures from the Russian Alphabet; The Fisherman and the Fish). He is equably balanced with Elena Mindlina. The two elements in these songs are well put across.
Mindlina brings just the right blend of Slavonic combustibility, dreamy introspection, fairytale fantasy, dark shadows, honeyed sweetness, girlish innocence, play-acting vocal characterisation and operatic blow-torch. Enunciation is good as far as I can tell – the typically classy 28 page booklet sets Cyrillic side by side with English translations. Listen to how Mindlina produces a wan disembodied effect for The night in springtime – the first of the seven Japanese songs in Balmont translations. Quiet and unshakeable concentration cries out from both the singing and the pianism. By contrast the singing in the final Maguey-Agave (tr. 29) recalls nothing so much as the jet black and raven-haired muscularity of de Falla’s gypsy songs in El Amor Brujo. These are remarkable songs. When compared with the instrumental ensemble settings made by Lambert and Bliss of oriental poems the main contrast is the absence of quick or jocular music. The Op. 8 setting of Tyutchev’s Tears - which also forms the basis of the third movement of Rachmaninov’s Suite No. 1 for two pianos – is implacable and slowly powerful. As to power, much the same can be said of all these treasurable songs.
This composer is also a master of Russian orchestral fantasy as you can hear on Pletnev’s Russian Overtures collection on Newton Classics. Other works worth tracking down include his 66 minute ballet Le pavillon d'Armide (1907) recorded by Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Henry Shek (Marco Polo 8.223779). On Chandos there’s his 54 minute ballet Narcisse et Echo (CHAN 9670) from Gennady Rozhdestvensky and the Residentie Orchestra The Hague. If you would like to sample more of Nikolai’s songs then you need to hear Gedda on a Tcherepnin père et fils twofer issued by EMI in 2011.
By the way, Toccata also have a disc of Alexander’s solo piano music 1913–61 on TOCC0079. It collects archival recordings made by Alexander and new recordings by Mikhail Shilyaev.
Delphian have just issued a superb 3 CD set of the Rachmaninov songs to place alongside your Chandos/Brilliant set. Do not forget to pick up this disc at the same time. Satisfaction can be pretty much guaranteed. Now, when will some inspired person produce a complete set of the Medtner songs?

Rob Barnett

Complete track-listing
Fairy Tales, Op. 33 (Balmont; 1905)
1 No. 1 ‘Morning’ 2:01
2 No. 6 ‘Cat’s House’ 2:13
3 No. 8 ‘Pansies’ 1:59
4 No. 10 ‘Fairy’s Charms’ 2:51
5 No. 11 ‘Fairy’s Breeze’ 1:36
6 No. 15 ‘The Butterfly’ 3:34
Four Songs, Op. 16 (Tyutchev; 1903)
7 No. 1 ‘Thoughts and Waves’ 2:47
8 No. 2 ‘Last Love’ 3:46
9 No. 3 ‘Lake in Tsarskoe Selo’ 4:35
10 No. 4 ‘Twilight’ 4:10
Japanese Lyrics, Op. 52 (1923)
11 No. 1 Andante (Ōshikōchi no Mitsune) 1:16
12 No. 2 Molto sostenuto e tranquillo (Anon.) 1:28
13 No. 3 Andantino tranquillo, quasi Andante (Saigyō Hōshi) 1:59
14 No. 4 Andantino pensieroso, tranquillo (Ooi) 3:20
15 No. 5 Sostenuto assai (Tekkan Yosano) 1:42
16 No. 6 Sostenuto assai, molto tranquillo (Tekkan Yosano) 2:27
17 No. 7 Moderato con moto (Kakinomoto no Hitomaro) 1:47
Four Songs, Op. 8 (1900)
18 No. 1 ‘Tears’ (Tyutchev) 3:28
19 No. 2 ‘Like a Wavering Cloud’ (Fet) 2:26
20 No. 3 ‘On a Quiet Night’ (Tyutchev) 3:38
21 No. 4 ‘Spring Solace’ (Tyutchev) 2:36
Oceanic Suite: A Cycle of Incantations, Op. 53 (Balmont; 1917)
22 No. 1 ‘To the Earth’ 2:23
23 No. 2 ‘Incantation to the Heart’ 2:26
24 No. 3 ‘Incantation to the Earth Spirit’ 3:31
25 No. 4 ‘Incantation to the Maker of Shadows’ 2:06
26 No. 5 ‘Incantation to Love’ 3:49
27 No. 6 ‘Incantation to Memory’ 5:15
28 No. 7 ‘To the Earth’ 1:36
29 No. 8 ‘Maguey-Agave’ 2:31