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Alexander TCHEREPNIN (1899-1977)
Piano music - Volume 7
Track listing below review
Giorgio Koukl (piano)
rec. Swiss Italian Radio Conservatoire, Lugano, 15 July 2010
GRAND PIANO GP 658 [57.30]

Generally speaking, two composers (often related) with the same name do not cause problems to readers or listeners, especially when one of them is considerably better-known than the other. When we speak of Wagner, we mean Richard rather than Siegfried. When we speak of Tchaikovsky, we mean Peter Ilyich rather than Boris. When we speak of Mozart, we mean Wolfgang Amadeus rather than Leopold. When we speak of Bach, we mean Johann Sebastian rather than one of his multifarious relations. When the two composers concerned have the same forename – as with Johann Strauss, William Wallace, William Cornysh or Gino Marinuzzi – confusion is generally avoided by the addition of roman numerals or the phrase “Elder” or “Younger”. This however did not stop the editors of the 1999 Penguin Guide wrongly attributing Nikolai Tcherepnin’s ballet Le pavillon d’Armide to his son Alexander (Marco Polo 8.223779). In more recent years the reputation of the latter has become considerably better established (article), and the fact that this is the seventh volume devoted to his music for piano bears testimony to this.
 
This volume appears to be the amongst the last in the series, since it contains a number of unpublished trifles and other arrangements, including no fewer than eight world première recordings. One is grateful that we are given very substantial notes on the music in the CD booklet, over six highly informative pages by Cary Lewis and Mark Gresham. These are also given in French and German translation. This is a model of how unfamiliar repertory should be presented to the listening public.
 
The opening suite Voeux (Wishes) is a collection of seven miniatures, only one of them over two minutes in duration. They are pleasant enough, but the piano version of the Polka (track 9) with its Satie-like nightclub feel, is rather more substantial. The early Concert Study, written when the composer was twenty-one, is in the line of romantic virtuoso piano music, but its display passages are rather conventional in style. The brief Canzona from eight years later has more depth of feeling, with a sprightly closing section. The display piece Autour des montagnes russes fully lives up to its subtitle “riding the roller coaster” with some delightfully offhand payoffs, and the Toccata No 2 is more substantial even if it is somewhat relentless. The three arrangements which follow betray their origins in other works – a cantata, a string trio and a piece for piano and strings – but the last is a highly effective piece with a Bach-like feel to it.
 
Of the later tracks, two – Old St Petersburg and the Ballade – are products of the composer’s teenage years, both receiving their world première recordings here. The first of these is really a waltz designed for the salon, but the other is apparently programmatic in inspiration although the underlying story is not known. It sounds like a sketch for an orchestral symphonic poem rather than a piano piece in its own right — the booklet informs us that it is Tcherepnin’s second-longest work for that medium. This disc concludes with an unpublished and undated Souvenir de voyage replete with quotations from music of various nationalities including Rule Britannia and the Marseillaise, and the final Satie-esque Badinage makes a delightful encore to conclude the disc.
 
The piano sound is a little closer than might be regarded as ideal – the upper register has a decidedly percussive tone – but is otherwise quite acceptable. Giorgio Koukl clearly appreciates and loves this music, and his technique is fully up to its frequently demanding virtuoso passages; he makes the barnstorming Ballade thoroughly enjoyable as well as dramatically exciting. One might welcome a more relaxed approach to some of the pieces such as the earlier section of the Canzona, but we are unlikely to encounter alternative recordings of much of this music in the near future and as such this release is self-recommending – especially to those who have been purchasing the earlier volumes in this edition. None of these pieces is an earth-shattering masterpiece, but they are all thoroughly enjoyable and some are rather more than that.
 
Paul Corfield Godfrey

Previous review: Steve Arloff

Track listing
Voeux, Op.39b (1926) [9.58]
Polka (version for piano) (1944) [1.53]
Étude de concert (1920) [4.10]
Canzona, Op.28 (1924) [3.25]
Autour des montagnes russes (1937) [3.28]
Toccata No 2, Op.20 (1922) [8.07]
Pastoral (arr. composer from The lost flute) (1955) [1.44]
Canon, Op.posth. (version for piano) (1923-4) [2.44]
Dialogue (arr. composer from Suite Géorgienne), Op.57/2 (1952) [4.03]
Old St Petersburg (c.1917) [3.16]
Ballade (1917) [8.57]
Souvenir de voyage (unpublished) [2.55]
Badinage (1941) [2.56]  

Reviews of other volumes in series
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6
Volume 8