Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873–1945) was the first of what would become his family’s musical dynasty: a conductor, composer, and professor at the St Petersburg Conservatory.
He was principal conductor for the first few seasons of the Ballets Russes A student of Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov, his most famous student was Prokofiev, who was very fond of his conducting professor and dedicated three of his early works to him Tcherepnin developed a flair for colourful orchestration from these earlier composers as well as an interest in Russian folklore, art, mythology and fairy tales as subjects for musical inspiration.
He also became an enthusiast for French Impressionism from frequent trips to Paris, where he eventually emigrated – so much so that his friends used to tease him by calling him ‘Debussy Ravelovich’ These influences show in his piano music here: the Three Pieces (early 1890s) have echoes of Chopin and Rachmaninov, and the remainder is inspired by classics of Russian children’s literature and the exquisite illustrations of Alexander Benois – the Fourteen Sketches from Benois’ alphabet book for children, and Pushkin’s famous poem The Fisherman and the Fish complete with watery splashes! Benois’s exquisite illustrations are reproduced beautifully in the full-colour booklet.
David Witten is Professor and Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at Montclair State University. He is a noted expert on 19th-century piano music (Nineteenth-Century Piano Music: Essays in Performance and Analysis, Garland Publishing, New York, 1997), including a landmark analytical study of the Chopin Ballades, and a widely-travelled soloist especially in Brazil. He is also an internationally award-winning photographer.
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