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Alexander Tcherepnin: Piano Music 1913-61

Tcherepnin / Shilyaev
Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 79   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Alexander TcherepninMikhail Shilyaev
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



A. TCHEREPNIN Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 1. Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 94 1. Four Nostalgic Preludes , Op. 23 1. Prelude, Op. 85/9 1. Moment musical. Petite Suite, Op. 6. Rondo à la Russe. Polka. Scherzo, Read more class="ARIAL12">Op. 3. Expressions, Op. 81. La Quatrième Alexander Tcherepnin (pn); 1 Mikhail Shilyaev (pn) TOCCATA 79


The works on this album span 48 years of Tcherepnin’s compositional output. One could dwell on the changes over time—the abandonment of conventional development for transformative development, for example—but those are relatively superficial, and in some instances, the usual expectations are contradicted by the facts. Yes, you could say that Tcherepnin wrote more dissonant, less tonally stable music later in life, but he also wrote some more conventional pieces, such as the delightful Polka from 1944. And some of his early music raises questions about what constitutes tonal stability, and who perceives the dissonance.


With Tcherepnin, the answers are never easy, because a broadening of tonality based on a range of natural and “synthetic” scales, and different ways of looking at harmonic consonance, seem to have been important to him as far back as the Moment Musical composed at the age of 14; and supposedly the piece endured only very slight changes before its publication 11 years later. This same underlying consistency of approach (less restrictive than the rules imposed by better known 20th-century “systems”) can be recognized in his frequently asymmetrical phrasing, puckish sense of humor, subtly irregular rhythms, wide expressive range, ability to write aphoristically (movements of his under one minute in length are not uncommon), an imaginative exploration of pianistic textures rivaling Mussorgsky, and a folk element that recalls speech patterns and Russian song. The most conventional thing on this disc is the charming Petite Suite of 1918/19, bringing to mind at various times Ravel and Bizet, but even it has a Berceuse in 5/8, and a Badinage whose humor hinges on obsessively repeated figurations, with occasional modal touches. So the changes people look for in music produced over a lengthy compositional career take a back seat in Tcherepnin’s case to the imaginative deployment of features that are continuously renewed, and never exhausted.


His piano music is not especially well served on record at the current time. The piano concertos are available, and in good readings, but Murray McLachlan’s fine survey on Olympia is out of print, while Giorgio Koukl’s on the Grand Piano label is so safe and comfortable, downplaying the more edgy aspects of the music, as to be nearly unrecognizable compared to Tcherepnin’s own commercial performances of a few of his works. These are still available on EMI Classics 07256, a two-disc set that includes a range of his chamber works, such as his Piano Quintet, and his String Quartet No. 2, as well as several songs with the composer accompanying Nicolai Gedda. It is highly recommended.


The liner notes by Benjamin Folkman to this release are splendid, and fortunately go into the details leading up to Tcherepnin’s own performances heard on this disc. The composer’s former composition student, Phillip Ramey, was working in 1965 on his master’s at Columbia University, and offered a series of radio programs on the student station exploring Tcherepnin’s music. As he lacked any recording of the two piano sonatas, and the composer was living at the time in New York City, Ramey invited Tcherepnin to record them for later broadcast using the Steinway concert grand in the University’s McMillan Theater. The matter was agreed, though the composer had so many current obligations he could only fit in the two numbered piano sonatas, plus the Four Nostalgic Preludes and the Prelude, in one long nighttime marathon session. Walter Carlos, a few years away yet from the first of his Switched On hit series, handled the engineering. Almost 40 years later the session acetate tapes were examined, then splices carefully unglued and ever so carefully cleaned (and anyone who has ever edited tapes knows how much that glue-baked splicing tape runs and expands over everything through the years).


The recordings, as it turns out, are excellent. Carlos got a very close, rich sound from the instrument with minimal tape hiss, and a reasonably good frequency range. Pre- and post-echo are endemic issues with tapes, but I don’t hear any of either, here. And while some of the top treble notes are very hard, I suspect that was deliberate on Tcherepnin’s part, to produce a sound suggesting Far Eastern metallophones. The playing is by no means sloppy, but there are occasional moments (the scherzo to the Second Sonata) when the tempo briefly stumbles, or (the First Sonata’s scherzo) notes aren’t hit squarely. Better this than a more cautious approach, given the higher temperature Tcherepnin achieves. There were certainly virtuosos at the time who could have played them both immaculately and still faster, but to have the composer’s own versions on record that venture outside the take-fewer-chances commercial studio environment of EMI, and in good sound, is excellent news.


The rest of the content features the playing of Mikhail Shilyaev. He is technically adroit, with clean articulation in the extensive scalular figurations of the fourth Expressions piece; and especially attentive to matters of tone, and the shape of phrases. His modern recording actually sounds a bit airless to me, and less closely recorded than that of Tcherepnin. Whatever the facts, the result is a slightly pallid piano sound, lacking in robustness, notably so in loud passages. This doesn’t obscure his accomplishment, and I certainly hope we’ll hear more of him in Tcherepnin, but the engineering doesn’t help make his case. That shouldn’t prevent you from buying this disc, however, if you have the slightest interest in Tcherepnin’s music. Definitely recommended.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1. Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Alexander Tcherepnin (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1918 
Venue:  McMillin Theatre, Columbia University, N 
Length: 14 Minutes 6 Secs. 
2. Sonata for Piano no 2, Op. 94 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Alexander Tcherepnin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961 
Venue:  McMillin Theatre, Columbia University, N 
Length: 9 Minutes 49 Secs. 
3. Préludes nostalgiques (4), for piano, Op. 23 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Alexander Tcherepnin (Piano)
Venue:  McMillin Theatre, Columbia University, N 
Length: 6 Minutes 7 Secs. 
4. Prelude for piano, Op. 85/9 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Alexander Tcherepnin (Piano)
Venue:  McMillin Theatre, Columbia University, N 
Length: 1 Minutes 27 Secs. 
5. Moment Musical, for piano by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Mikhail Shilyaev (Piano)
Written: 1913 
Venue:  The Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conserva 
Length: 1 Minutes 59 Secs. 
6. Petite Suite, Op. 6 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Mikhail Shilyaev (Piano)
Venue:  The Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conserva 
Length: 7 Minutes 11 Secs. 
7. Rondo à la Russe, for piano by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Mikhail Shilyaev (Piano)
Venue:  The Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conserva 
Length: 2 Minutes 38 Secs. 
8. Entretiens, for piano, Op. 46 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Mikhail Shilyaev (Piano)
Written: 1920-1930 
Venue:  The Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conserva 
Length: 9 Minutes 30 Secs. 
9. Polka, for piano by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Mikhail Shilyaev (Piano)
Written: 1944 
Venue:  The Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conserva 
Length: 1 Minutes 59 Secs. 
10. Scherzo for Piano, Op. 3 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Mikhail Shilyaev (Piano)
Venue:  The Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conserva 
Length: 3 Minutes 28 Secs. 
11. Expressions, for piano, Op. 81 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Mikhail Shilyaev (Piano)
Written: 1951 
Venue:  The Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conserva 
Length: 11 Minutes 21 Secs. 
12. La Quatrième, for piano by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Mikhail Shilyaev (Piano)
Written: 1948-1949 
Venue:  The Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conserva 
Length: 2 Minutes 30 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22: I. Allegro comodo
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22: II. Andante
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22: III. Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22: IV. Grave
Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 94: I. Lento
Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 94: II. Andantino
Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 94: III. Animato
4 Nostalgic Preludes, Op. 23: No. 1. Lento
4 Nostalgic Preludes, Op. 23: No. 2. Allegretto
4 Nostalgic Preludes, Op. 23: No. 3. Tempestoso
4 Nostalgic Preludes, Op. 23: No. 4. Con dolore
12 Preludes, Op. 85: No. 9. Allegro
Moment Musical
Petite Suite, Op. 6: I. Marche
Petite Suite, Op. 6: II. Chant sans paroles
Petite Suite, Op. 6: III. Berceuse
Petite Suite, Op. 6: IV. Scherzo
Petite Suite, Op. 6: V. Badinage
Petite Suite, Op. 6: VI. Humoresque
Rondo a la Russe
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 1. Lento
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 2. Animato
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 3. Moderato
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 4. Allegretto
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 5. Recitando
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 6. Animato
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 7. Moderato
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 8. Animato
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 9. Grave
Entretiens, Op. 46: No. 10. Allegretto
Polka (version for piano)
Scherzo, Op. 3
Expressions, Op. 81: I. Entrance
Expressions, Op. 81: II. The Hour of Death
Expressions, Op. 81: III. Caprice
Expressions, Op. 81: IV. Silly Story of the White Oxen
Expressions, Op. 81: V. Thief in the Night
Expressions, Op. 81: VI. At the Fair
Expressions, Op. 81: VII. Barcarole
Expressions, Op. 81: VIII. Blind Man's Buff
Expressions, Op. 81: IX. At Dawn
Expressions, Op. 81: X. Exit
La Quatrieme

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