Tcherepnin, Nikolai (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”.