Aleksandr Khimichenko

Russian flute player and teacher (b. 1856; d. 1947), born Aleksandr Vasilyevich Khimichenko (Александр Васильевич Химиченко).

Khimichenko studied the flute under Ferdinand Büchner at the Moscow Conservatory, where he was also a member of Tchaikovsky's harmony class. After his graduation from the conservatory in 1879, he became an instructor in the flute and music theory in the music school at Kiev, and later a professor at the Kiev State Conservatory.

In his memoirs of Tchaikovsky, Khimichenko describes the composer's frequent visits to Kiev and refers to an incident which inspired one of the most well-known numbers in The Nutcracker:

The most memorable visit by Pyotr Ilyich was that of 1891, when he conducted three [sic] concerts in Kiev [1]. The preliminary rehearsals were directed by Přibík, but I wasn't playing in the orchestra then. However, when Pyotr Ilyich arrived he expressed the wish that I should play first flute. I couldn't refuse, of course. During one of the rehearsals Pyotr Ilyich was resting in the director's office. I went up to him and we started talking about the Conservatory. Pyotr Ilyich recalled how in Saint Petersburg he, too, had once learnt to play the flute, but said that after so many years he had forgotten everything. He lamented this and asked me to demonstrate 'some real corker' from the interesting tricks which one can achieve with the flute. I played him the variations from Ciardi's Carnaval russe [2] and made use of the effect which is known as frullato. Pyotr Ilyich was fascinated by it and asked me to repeat once more this trick which consists of playing a chromatic scale of trilled notes across the flute's entire register, and which produces the effect of a cascade (the sound resembles that of our Ukrainian sopilka). Soon after Pyotr Ilyich's departure from Kiev I received from him a signed photograph with a letter [3] in which he asked me to describe in detail the device I had demonstrated to him and to send him some music examples, since he wanted to use frullato in his new ballet The Nutcracker [4].

Tchaikovsky deployed this striking effect for the piccolo in Tea: Chinese Dance, one of the Act II divertissements in The Nutcracker.

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

2 letters have survived from Tchaikovsky to Aleksandr Khimichenko, dating from 1889 and 1892, both of which have been translated into English on this website::

2 letters from Khimichenko to the composer, dating from 1889 and 1892, are preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive.

Bibliography

Notes and References

  1. In fact Tchaikovsky conducted only two concerts in Kiev that year: on 21 and 22 December 1891 [O.S.]. These two concerts had identical programmes and featured the Suite No. 3, the Entr'acte and Dances of the Chambermaids from the opera The Voyevoda and the overture The Year 1812.
  2. The famous Italian flautist Cesare Ciardi (1818–1877) was based in Russia from 1853 and taught Tchaikovsky the flute at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory: Tchaikovsky became highly proficient in this instrument and was able to take part in student concerts and chamber music soirées requiring the flute during his time at the Conservatory.
  3. Letter 4633 to Aleksandr Khimichenko, 3/15 March 1892.
  4. Aleksandr Khimichenko's memoirs of Tchaikovsky were published for the first time in П. И. Чайковский на Украине. Материалы и документы (1940).