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Alexander TCHEREPNIN Piano Concertos

Symphonic Prayer, Op.93 (1959)

Piano Concerto No.2, Op.26 (1923)

Magna mater, Op.41 (1926/27)

Piano Concerto No.4 (Fantaisie), Op. 78 (1947)
I. Eastern Chamber Dream. Moderato
II. Yan Kuei Fei's Love Sacrifice. Sostenuto - Animato
III. Road to Yunnan. Allegretto

Noriko Ogawa, piano
Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lan Shui

BIS-CD-1247 [TT 64 mins]

The prolific and long-lived composer Alexander Tcherepnin (1899-1977) is pictured here shortly before he composed his 2nd piano concerto (I chose it for illustration in preference to the grinning publicity photos of pianist and conductor, which reminded me of one's childhood agony when exhorted to 'smile for the picture'!).

Prokofiev was a pupil of Tcherepnin's father, and there are clear affinities. The concerto, 'based essentially upon a leap of a fourth', is sparky and optimistic music, typical of (for me) a favourite decade of the last century. A motoric development subsides to introduce a wide ranging set of variations 'bursting with original technical, contrapuntal and rhythmic finesse'. It is deftly orchestrated and played with verve and charm by Noriko Ogawa.

The half-hour later piano concerto has a legendary Chinese story line, and is more expansive in style. It is characterised by Far Eastern folk ideas, with variations on a pentatonic theme. I think that this concerto manages (just) to avoid a charge of banality, and preferred the earlier one. Tcherepnin liked to draw on extra-musical inspiration and Georgian folk music and Chinese folklore were important to him. The two orchestral pieces are religious rituals, neither solemn and both of them displaying great energy in the development of the material.

It is all done with panache and well documented. Another deserving hit for BIS.


© Peter Grahame Woolf