Lan Shui with Singapore Sympohony Orchestra
Alexander Tcherepnin was a Russian-born composer, pianist and conductor, known for his cosmopolitan style that included influences from France and the Far East. Although his style is Russian at heart, it lacks much of the Romantic melancholy and overt nationalism seen in the works of other Russian-born composers. Instead, his earlier works are characterized by a French leanness and clarity, although some, such as in the second Piano Concerto (1923), bear a similarity to the works of Prokofiev in their motoric rhythms. Tcherepnin also departed from his more conservative contemporaries by embracing experimental techniques and materials. This tendency expressed itself more thoroughly when, after spending an extended time in the Far East, he reformulated his style and started experimenting with new scale structures and contrapuntal forms. Eventually, his experiments led to the creation of the Tcherepnin Scale, which consists of three overlapping tetrachords, each constructed of a whole tone and two semitones. He also developed a new form of counterpoint, called "interpoint," which allows the combination of several self-contained contrapuntal structures.
Tcherepnin's Symphony No.1, Op.42, was written in 1927, before the composer's travels to Asia. It is a fine example of his early style-clean and precise, slightly astringent in its treatment of dissonance, and already differentiated from the neo-Romanticism of contemporaries like Rachmaninov. It also highlights his early experimental tendencies by featuring a second movement scored entirely for unpitched percussion. Unheard of at the time, this revolutionary orchestration caused a near riot at the work's premiere in Paris-an event that in no small way contributed to Tcherepnin's growing reputation.
Tcherepnin's Symphony No.2, Op.77, was produced during the tumultuous years following the Second World War. Written in 1947, but not orchestrated until 1951, it represents a renewal of the composer's creative energies (which had been stifled while living in occupied France), and an optimism about the years to come. The second symphony is more traditional than the first-more closely corresponding as it does to the Classical symphonic model-and it represents the stylistic point from which Tcherepnin began the synthesis of his own innovations and the orientalia with which he had become so enamored during his travels in Asia.
Tcherepnin settled in the United States in 1950, and the composer entered a period of great compositional growth and synthesis. The Concerto No.5 for piano, Op. 96, was written in 1963, while he was living in Chicago and teaching at DePaul University. It represents a culmination of his style, integrating disparate elements into a highly personal syntax that lacked allegiance to any one nation or larger artistic trend.