Surprise! I thought I would delight you today with an uplifting piece of music to chase away any dark moods and to achieve this, I’ll offer you… horns. Horns! Beautiful, golden and loud French horns that make a lot of beautiful noise. I love French horns, and this not only since I discovered the omnipresent Sarah Willis of the Berlin Philharmonic on Twitter! No, horns are fantastic, just like the cello, their forte is the fusion of warmth and sadness. Today’s piece is called “Six Horn Quartets” (Op. 35) and its prevalent mood is optimistic. It was written by the Russian composer Nikolai Tcherepnin in 1910. It has been recorded by the Deutsches Horn Ensemble.
Tcherepnin belongs to the last generation of Russian Romantic composers. He was born in 1873 in St. Petersburg and after graduating in 1895 law he studied composition with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and the piano with K. K. Fan-Arkh at conservatory of St. Petersburg. In 1899 he joint the Court Chapel before returning to the conservatory to teach (1905–18, from 1909 as professor). He became the first in Russia to give orchestral conducting classes; his pupils included Sergei Prokofiev. Parallel to his teaching he toured Europe and the United States. He abandoned his concert career in 1933 because of a deterioration in his hearing. Meanwhile he had founded the Russian Conservatory in Paris in 1925 and served as its director for a number of years.
A busy composer and teacher
Until his death in 1945 in Paris, he composed a few operas, ballets of which the “Pavillon d’Aramide” is the best known, choral and symphonic works, chamber music and pieces for solo instruments. Tcherepnin was, in short, an accomplished composer, conductor and teacher but since he stood in the shadow of people like Sergei Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov or Prokofiev, the world has forgotten him more or less. Time to pick up the thread then and see where it leads us. The horn pieces are only the beginning; over the winter I will dry to dig up recordings of the “Pavillon d’Aramide” and a string quartet dated 1898 and a piano cycle also written in 1910.
The Six Horn Quartets are actually six movements of one piece and Tcherepnin labeled them as follows: 1. Nocturne 2. Ancienne chanson allemande 3. La chasse 4. Choeur dansé 5. Un chant populaire russe 6. Un Choral The pieces are remarkable miniatures, they reflect both different European music traditions and different genres. The second movement “Old German Song” immediately reminded me of German Romanticism, the fourth and the fifth “Danced Chorus” and “Russian Folk Song” have their roots in Russian music as it has been embodied Pyotr Tchaikovsky while the final “Choral” is a reference to Baroque liturgical music as it was composed by Johannes Sebastian Bach.
And now, mount your horses, we are riding to the sound of the third movement “The Hunt”.
© Charles Thibo