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ClassicsOnline Home » TCHEREPNIN, N.: Pavillon d' Armide (Le)
"excellent performances from the Moscow Symphony Orchestra under Henry Shek and sympathetic engineering make this worth seeking out."
Tcherepnin (1873 - 1945)
Le pavillon d'
Armide, Op. 29 (Fantastic Ballet)
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, ii 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. In his original proposal the Vicomte de Beaugency sets out to
visit his betrothed but is caught in storm and compelled to take refuge in a
mysterious chateau. He knocks and is welcomed by the Marquis and invited to
spend the night in a pavilion where there is a tapestry of Armida, the
enchantress who, in Tasso's poem, had captivated the knight Rinaldo. She seems
to beckon him and the tapestry seems to glow. The Vicomte falls asleep, in
spite of his fear, but at midnight the Marquis appears and orders Time and Love
to come from their niches and lead his guest, Armida and her court in dance.
The Vicomte falls in love with Armida, but dawn breaks and Love and Time bid
them all disappear. A shepherd passes with his sheep. The Vicomte awakes, but
wonders ii all was a dream: he has in his hand, though, Armida's scarf.
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 modem 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”.
 The Introduction
and First Scene of the ballet in its final form starts in the park of the
ancestral home of the Marquis de Fierbois, where there is a strange building.
The beautiful Marquise Susanne de Fierbois had lived for long alone, after a
brilliant career at the court of the Sun King. A Gobelin tapestry represents
her as Armida, surrounded by her court. It is said that the Marquise had never
left her favourite haunt and that her soul had entered the tapestry portrait.
The Comte de Torcy, betrothed to the young lady of the chateau, decides to
discover the secret of the pavilion of Armida, and as the curtain rises he has
just entered and is examining the place with curiosity, while servants prepare
his bed there. The count is struck by the likeness of Armida to his betrothed
and at that moment the Gobelin seems to glow. He thinks he sees Armida smile
and nervously approaches to see if there is anything hidden behind. The
majordomo announces that the count's bed is prepared and the servants help
prepare him for a peaceful sleep.
 The pavilion
is lit by moonlight. Saturn, on an old clock, reverses his hour- glass. The
clock opens and twelve boys in gold and silver come out and perform the dance
of the hours, then returning to their place.
 Distant and
strange music is heard, as from the tapestry. The count rises and goes towards
it, but finding nothing returns to bed. The music sounds again, this time
nearer and louder. The count is terrified and would try to run away, were it
not for fear of being thought a coward. The tapestry shines brighter and the
figures become more distinct, finally taking human form. The background changes
into a splendid palace, before which Armida appears in her enchanted garden,
surrounded by ladies-in- waiting and her courtiers.
 The Princess
Armida stands and to the accompaniment of harps played by her slaves laments
the absence of her beloved knight Rinaldo.  This is followed by a Scene and
 The courtiers
and ladies-in-waiting join in a Grande valse noble.  This is followed
by Variation, the opening Allegro marked by the use of the
celesta, an instrument Tchaikovsky had introduced tf5 Russian ballet some
fifteen years earlier. A strongly marked Allegro follows, with a gentler
dance thereafter, followed by the syncopations of a lively Vivace. The
variations end with solemn music of Baroque suggestion, interrupted by trumpet
calls on stage.
 There now
follows a dance of the boys, 1ittle Ethiopian slaves, where the xylophone finds
a place.  The divertissements continue with the dance of Armida's ladies in
a slow waltz.  Another element intrudes with the appearance of Bacchus and
his wild followers in a Bacchanale, a grotesque and frantic dance, savage and
 The entry of
the magicians, led by King Hydrao, changes the mood again, leading to a dance of
the shades, ghosts that disappear again at the wave of a magic wand.  The
dance of the fools introduces another contrast of mood and music,  to be
followed by the scarf dance and  a languishing pas de deux.  This leads
in turn to the Grande valse finale.
In the theatre the
ballet continues with a scene in which the apparitions disappear in solemn
procession. Dawn is breaking and the pastoral scene out1ined in Benois'
1ibretto brings a certain reality to the action, leaving a final scene to pose
the count a question about his dream, if that was what it was.
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TCHEREPNIN, N.: Pavillon d' Armide (Le)