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Tcherepnin: Complete Symphonies & Piano Concertos / Ogawa, Shui, Singapore So


Release Date: 11/25/2008 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1717/8   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Noriko Ogawa
Conductor:  Lan ShuiLan Shi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BIS has taken on so many worthy projects over the years that it's difficult to keep up with them. This cycle of Tcherepnin piano concertos and other orchestral works, while not the largest, is by no means the least. All six piano concertos are now available, and what an enjoyable bunch they are, particularly in these marvelously engineered, colorful, and energetic performances from Noriko Ogawa, the Singapore Symphony, and conductor Lan Shui.

Piano Concertos No 1 & 3, Symphonic March, Festmusik

The First Concerto, in one movement, offers a fascinating combination of traditional Romantic melodies and keyboard bravura, alongside a lengthy and experimental opening that sounds sort of like a sped-up,
Read more minimalist take on the second movement of Saint-Saëns' Egyptian Concerto. At the end, both types of music are combined very effectively. Ogawa has more than enough tone and technique to project the music's grand gestures with the necessary brilliance and sweep, and the whole thing is tremendous fun despite (or because of) its somewhat heterogeneous makeup.

The Third Concerto is more experimental in the sense that its thematic material is sparer and more harmonically acerbic, but not much more than, say, what we find in Shostakovich's First or Fourth Symphonies. Here the interpretive challenge is to project a firm sense of continuity throughout a highly colorful, melodically fragmented journey. Ogawa and Shui have no problems at all in this respect, and rather than sounding like a tough nut the piece comes off as quite appealing in a spiky, dryly witty sort of way.

Festmusik actually is a little four-movement suite of dances drawn from an earlier opera, the details of which don't matter a bit. The music stands perfectly well on its own and would make a delightful concert opener--as would the Symphonic March, for that matter. The nicest thing about this latter work is that it's not in fact rhythmically stiff or even especially militant--it's just a big, colorful, expertly written orchestral showpiece, and it closes the program with a bang. If you don't know Tcherepnin's music yet, you should, and this disc provides an excellent place to start.

Symphonies No 3 & 4, Piano Concerto No 6

Alexander Tcherepnin's Third Symphony sounds a lot like Stravinsky's Petrushka with Chinese tunes. It's a brilliant piece of work and an unusual one too, in that the slow movement starts quietly but arrives at a brilliant, heroic ending to which the real finale comes as a sort of humorous postlude. The feel of the symphony, its pattern of tension and release, is thus more "classical" à la Haydn and Mozart than Romantic. The Fourth Symphony is just the opposite: a quick opening movement precedes a quirky waltz, all as a prelude to a lengthy, elegiac slow finale based on Orthodox chant. Tcherepnin's orchestral mastery is particularly evident in this work, which abstains from his usual fondness for percussion effects and instead makes its points through instrumentation that, though sober, never becomes drab or monochrome.

The Sixth Piano Concerto was written for the Swiss pianist Margrit Weber who recorded the work for Deutsche Grammophon with Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Needless to say, that performance has been unavailable since the 1970s, making this newcomer all the more welcome. This is a marvelous concerto, full of brilliant writing for the soloist. The first movement has a particularly wonderful development section in which all of the tunes are explored rhythmically by solo percussion, leading to a riveting return to the opening by the orchestra and piano soloist. Noriko Ogawa deserves a huge amount of credit for learning this colorful and challenging work, and for playing it with such dynamism and genuine sympathy. It would bring the house down in concert, and hopefully she will have at least some opportunities to offer it live. Fantastic music, performances, and recording! Another major winner.

Symphonies No 1 & 2, Piano Concerto No 5

A true citizen of the world, Alexander Tcherepnin was exposed to many influences, including the Russian Romantics, Stravinsky and the French Impressionists, Chinese and Asian music, the Second Viennese School, and just about everything else he encountered in his perennial global perambulations. And yet his music sounds like no one else, exactly. Take the First Symphony: it opens in a rhythmically vigorous and harmonically acerbic style evocative of Honegger and Roussel; but then the second movement is a remarkable creation scored for unpitched percussion only! Needless to say, the work created a juicy scandal at its Paris premiere. The problem with polystylistic music such as this is the danger of it sounding like bits of odds and ends, rather than an integrated work of art. Tcherepnin avoids this by never overplaying his hand (his various harmonic modes color rather than overwhelm his individuality), keeping the music moving, and structuring his works with surprising rigor. These generally excellent recordings, in which the Singapore Symphony Orchestra rises valiantly to the music's challenges, offer a very positive take on some first rate music. Pianist Noriko Ogawa plays with fluency and accuracy, though a touch more bravura wouldn't have been amiss in the Fifth Piano Concerto. In sum: get in at the start of another important and rewarding series of recordings from BIS dedicated to neglected but very worthy music.

Piano Concertos No 2 & 4, Symphonic Prayer, Magna mater

This is really delightful stuff. The Symphonic Prayer and Magna mater both contrast gentle chorale textures with inventive writing for brass and percussion, and come off sounding somewhat like a harmonically kinder, gentler, but no less energetic Honegger. Prokofiev serves as the model for the nose-thumbing but inventive Second Piano Concerto, whose obstinately catchy principal motif gets repeated what sounds like several thousand times--but always with such wit and point that it never becomes annoying (unless of course you have no sense of humor and dislike musical jokes). Its flashy 17 minutes breezes by in (subjectively speaking) a fraction of the time, and Noriko Ogawa dispatches the fun-filled piano part with unconcealed glee.

She's appropriately more poetic and evocative in the remarkable Fourth Piano Concerto, a sequence of three tone poems for piano and orchestra on Chinese subjects, respectively titled Eastern Chamber Dream, Yan Kuei Fei's Love Sacrifice, and Road to Yunnan. As you listen you may well wonder where this colorful and deliciously kitschy music has been, and why it doesn't enjoy greater popularity. Colorfully scored, breezily "Chinese" in idiom (meaning plenty of pentatonic tunes), and compulsively listenable, it would bring the house down in a concert--and hopefully Ogawa will have many opportunities to play it live. In the meantime, she deserves our thanks for learning this unusual music (as well as Tcherepnin's other worthy piano concertos), as do Lan Shui and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra who offer very sympathetic accompaniments. First class sonics top off an absolutely irresistible release. Keep it coming, BIS!

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 3, Op. 83 "Chinese" by Alexander Tcherepnin
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952 
2. Symphony no 4, Op. 91 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957 
3. Concerto for Piano no 6, Op. 99 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Noriko Ogawa (Piano)
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965; USA 
4. Symphony no 1, Op. 42 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Paris, France 
5. Symphony no 2, Op. 77 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947-1951; Paris, France 
6. Concerto for Piano no 5, Op. 96 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Noriko Ogawa (Piano)
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1963; Russia 
7. Concerto for Piano no 2, Op. 26 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Noriko Ogawa (Piano)
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Paris, France 
8. Concerto for Piano no 4, Op. 78 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Noriko Ogawa (Piano)
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; Russia 
9. Symphonic Prayer, Op. 93 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; Russia 
10. Magna mater, Op. 41 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926-1927; Russia 
11. Concerto for Piano no 1, Op. 12 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Noriko Ogawa (Piano)
Conductor:  Lan Shi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919-1920; Russia 
12. Concerto for Piano no 3, Op. 48 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Performer:  Noriko Ogawa (Piano)
Conductor:  Lan Shi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931-1932; France 
13. Symphonic March, Op. 80 by Alexander Tcherepnin
Conductor:  Lan Shi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
14. Festmusik, Op. 45a by Alexander Tcherepnin
Conductor:  Lan Shi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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