Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tcherepnin - Ten Bagatelles For Piano

Alexander Tcherepnin ( 1899 - 1977 ) was Russian-born pianist and composer whose father Nicolas was a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and also a composer. Alexander's  son and grandsons are also composers. His father also conducted the orchestra for the famed Ballet Russe so young Alexander got to meet many leading musicians and artists of the day that were guests in their home.

Tcherepnin learned the basics of music from his mother before he was five years old. By the time he began his studies in harmony and composition in his teen years he had already composed over one hundred compositions. During the Russian Revolution of 1917 the family moved to Tbilisi, Georgia where Alexander continued his studies. By this time Tcherepnin had composed over two hundred pieces, including the Bagatelles for piano. The turmoil in Russia eventually boiled over into Georgia and the family once again moved, making Paris their home. Alexander completed his studies there and embarked on a career that saw him traveling extensively around the world as a performer and composer.  

Tcherepnin's music thus was influenced from a lot of different sources from the very beginning.  That he composed so much by such a young age shows his natural gifts blossomed early. He grew as a composer and went through many stylistic phases. He was influenced by Georgian folk songs from his student days there,  traveled and taught in the far East, kept a home in Paris and the United States when he wasn't touring. He wrote incredibly complex music, avant garde music (a movement in  one of his symphonies is for unpitched percussion instruments alone), and music that was more accessible to the general public.  

As noted his Bagatelles for piano were pieces written in his youth. They are short (the longest one lasting barely 2 minutes) pithy and dissonant. They are like children themselves. Witty one moment, loud the next, fidgety and barely able to sit still, leaping about and playing.  

The Bagatelles for piano show that from the start, Tcherepnin took the influences he experienced and made of them his own musical language. He was a follower of no 'school' of composition. He made his own way with his own methods, devices and music philosophy. His style and philosophy of composition gave his works such variety that it is impossible to pigeon-hole him as a composer. His music is unique, as was the man.


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