Alexander Tcherepnin (1899–1977)

Listen to the recording of Alexander Tcherepnin’s Op. 25 Rhapsody georgienne (Georgian Rhapsody) for cello and orchestra from 1922.
The rhapsody mirrors the broad interest in folk art shown by artists, writers, and composers at the time. It includes passages of Georgia’s emblematic folk dance, the Lezginka, along with Eastern rhythms and ornamentation. The piece is also an example of the idea of «Eurasinism».

Alexander Tcherepnin is a Russian-born composer. Music and art play a prominent role in the entire family. Alexander’s father, Nikolai Tcherepnin (a student of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov), is also a composer, and Alexander’s mother Maria part of the Russian artist family Benois. The sons Serge and Ivan become composers as well. (Serge Tcherepnin is a pioneer of electronic music.) Presently, two grandsons continue the family tradition: The artists and musicians Sergei Tcherepnin and Stefan Tcherepnin, both based in New York.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Alexander plays the piano and composes from a very early age. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the family flees St. Petersburg and settled in Tbilisi. In 1918, Nikolai Tcherepnin, Alexander’s father, was offered the post of director of the National Conservatory of Tbilisi in the newly created Democratic Republic of Georgia. In Tbilisi, Alexander continued his studies at the conservatory, and gave concerts as a pianist and conductor, and wrote music for the Kamerny Theater in Moscow. Because of the political environment in Tbilisi after Georgia was sovietized, the Tcherepnins chose to leave Russia permanently in 1921.

They settled in Paris from where Tcherepnin launched an international career as a pianist and composer. Soon, yearly visits took him to the United States and to Asia, where he met and married the young Chinese pianist Lee Hsien Ming (1915–1991). The couple had three sons: Peter, Serge and Ivan. In 1950, they settled in Chicago, and in 1964 they transferred to New York.