NIKOLAI TCHEREPNIN (1873 - 1945)
Nikolai Nikolayevich Tcherepnin was born in St Petersburg in 1873. He
was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov at the Conservatory, where he completed
his studies in 1898, thereafter working as a teacher and conductor, in
the latter capacity at the Mariinsky Theatre and notably in Paris.
There, in 1908, he superintended the first performance in Paris of
Rimsky-Korsakov's Golden Cockerel and the following year conducted the
first of Dyagilev's Ballets Russes seasons. He conducted again in the
Ballets Russes seasons of 1911 and 1912. In 1918 he became director of
the Conservatory of Tblisi in Georgia, where he conducted the opera.
Three years later he moved to Paris, where he settled for the rest of
his life. Here he provided music for Pavlova and completed
Mussorgsky’s Sorochintsy Fair for performance in Monte-Carlo. His own operas Swat, after Ostrovsky, and Vanka followed in 1930
and 1932 respectively. In style Tcherepnin follows the tradition of
Rimsky-Korsakov, in a generally conservative musical language, which is
colourful and attractive, Russian tinged with French, lacking the
astringency of a Stravinsky.
The ballet Le Pavillon d' Armide opened Dyagilev's first
Paris season. The ballet had been conceived by Alexandre Benois, whose
niece, daughter of the painter Albert Benois, became Tcherepnin's wife.
Benois, who had in 1901 become artistic director of the Imperial
Theatres, was inspired by the novella Omphale by Theophile Gautier to
propose a ballet derived from the subject.
The proposal by Benois was rejected by the director of the Imperial
Theatres, Teliakovsky. The music composed for the proposed ballet by
Tcherepnin had, however, won some success in the concert hall, and he
suggested to the choreographer Fokin a graduation ballet for 1907, for
which an additional virtuoso part was added for a particularly talented
student, Vaslav Nijinsky, as Armida's favourite slave. The projected
ballet was reduced to three scenes, under the title The Gobelin come to
life and was so successful as a vehicle for student display, with its
many divertissements, that it was taken into the Imperial Theatre
repertoire, when Pavlova danced Armida and Pavel Gerdt the Vicomte. In
Paris with the Ballets Russes at the Theatre du Chatelet for Dyagilev
Vera Karalli danced Armida, Mikhail Mordkin the Vicomte and Nijinsky
again appeared in his own role as Armida's favourite slave. Fokin's
innovative and fluid choreography, deriving its inspiration from
Noverre, as Benois his designs from the eighteenth century Louis-Rene
Boquet, caused a sensation and was an important step towards the
creation of modern ballet. Jean Cocteau recalled his feelings at seeing
the ballet, with an effect "better than a poem by Heine, than a story
of Poe, than any dream, this nostalgia for things partly seen,
insubstantial and insistent”.