Nikolai Tcherepnin’s Prelude to “La Princesse Lointaine”: A Celebration of Orchestral Color

Edmond Rostand’s 1895 play, La Princesse Lointaine (“The Distant Princess”), was inspired by medieval romantic legend, and the archetype of the knight errant pursuing an unattainable, idealized love:

On the enchanting coasts of Provence, and under its bright blue skies, an echo bears from east to west news of a lady divinely beautiful, the pearl of Byzantium, the famous Princess Melisande. A young troubadour, Prince Geoffroy, hears of the beautiful princess. She inspires his songs, and henceforth he lives only for her. He nourishes his dream with sweet melodies which touch her heart. From far away she loves the man whose muse praises her name, and dedicates her heart and mind to the unknown singer. Full of love and youthful ardour, the young poet sets out to see the woman who is ever in his dreams. But the journey is difficult, and fraught with danger and great obstacles. At last he reaches his journey’s end. Night yields to dawn – and he breathes his last sigh at her feet.

Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873-1945) had just completed studies with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory when, in 1899, he composed music for Rostand’s play.

The Prelude to La Princesse Lointaine is filled with the shimmering orchestral colors we hear in the music of Rimsky-Korsakov. Harmonically, the opening measures are built on the Eastern-looking pentatonic scale. Beginning with the solitary voice of the solo cello, the Prelude’s beautiful, majestic theme emerges as if out of a dream, soars as a passionate statement, and then fades away as it began, with a glowing chord in the woodwinds.


  • Tcherepnin: Prelude to La Princesse Lointaine, Op. 4, Łukasz Borowicz, Bamberger Symphoniker Amazon

Featured Image: “Sarah Bernhardt as Mélissinde in La Princesse Lointaine” (1895), Georges Clairin

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Nikolai Tcherepnin’s Prelude to “La Princesse Lointaine”: A Celebration of Orchestral Color”

  1. This label (“CPO”) seems to be the major source for recordings of music by slightly to highly obscure composers — and there seem to be many hundreds of such recordings. I’m not sure how they’re able to make that happen from a financial point of view.


Leave a Comment