Performer: Shura Cherkassky
Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Malcolm Sargent
SPARS Code: A-D
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: First Hand Records
Size: 531 MB
01. Bach – Busoni: Chaconne, transcription for piano in D minor (after J. S. Bach, BWV 1004), KiV B24
02. Beethoven: Bagatelle for piano in G minor, Op. 119/1
03. Schubert: Impromptu for piano in A flat major, D. 899/4 (Op. 90/4)
04. Chopin: Mazurka for piano No. 7 in F minor, Op. 7/3, CT. 58
05. Chopin: Waltz for piano No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 18, CT. 207
06. Chopin: Nocturne for piano No. 8 in D flat major, Op. 27/2, CT. 115
07. Chopin: Ballade for piano No. 2 in F major, Op. 38, CT. 3
08. Chopin: Ballade for piano No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47, CT. 4
09. Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody, for piano No. 13 in A minor, S. 244/13 (LW A132/13)
10. Liszt: Valse de l’opéra Faust, transcription for piano (after Gounod), S. 407 (LW A208)
01. Lifolff: Concerto Symphonique for piano & orchestra No. 4 in D minor, Op. 102: Scherzo
02. Saint-Saens: The Swan (from ‘Carnival of the Animals’), original (for 2 pianos & ensemble) and arrangements
03. Lyadov: Musical Snuffbox, for piano (or orchestra), Op. 32
04. Rachmaninov: Prelude for piano No.6 in G minor, Op. 23/5
05. Rachmaninov: Prelude for piano No.3 in B flat major, Op. 23/2
06. Gershwin: Preludes for piano: No. 1 in B flat major
07. Gershwin: Preludes for piano: No. 2 in C sharp minor
08. Gershwin: Preludes for piano: No. 3 in E flat minor
09. Poulenc: Trois pièces, for piano, FP 48: Toccata
10. Chasins: Chinese Pieces for piano: No. 1. A Shanghai Tragedy, Op. 7, No. 1
11. Chasins: Chinese Pieces for piano: No. 2. Flirtation in a Chinese Garden, Op. 5
12. Chasins: Chinese Pieces for piano: No. 3. Rush Hour in Hong Kong
13. Gershwin: Preludes for piano: No. 1 in B flat major
14. Gershwin: Preludes for piano: No. 2 in C sharp minor
15. Gershwin: Preludes for piano: No. 3 in E flat minor
16. Chopin: Ballade for piano No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47
14 YEARS ON
This very welcome reissue marks the centenary of Cherkassky’s birth, but he is not all that long gone from among us. He died only 14 years ago, he was still performing until very near the end, and another of his recitals that I own is the formidable and demanding programme that he gave to mark his 80th birthday.
Cherkassky was a pupil of Hofmann, but from what little of Hofmann’s work there is in my collection I would not say that Cherkassky’s playing resembles his to any marked extent. Indeed it is not easy to find a close parallel for Cherkassky at all. His choice of repertory was distinctive, based in the 19th century but featuring a good deal of music that we used to call avant-garde as well as works on (or beyond) the outer fringes of what passes for classical. I don’t know him in any 18th century music – this is the second performance I have from him of the Bach/Busoni Chaconne, but that is a piece that I file under Busoni and not under Bach. Listening to Cherkassky in this work might be expected to invite comparisons with Michelangeli, but again the approach is too dissimilar for comparisons to mean much to me. Similarly with the Rachmaninov B flat prelude, of which there is a legendary account by Richter. Cherkassky certainly does not displace Richter, but he is not trying to, and I find the contrast delightful and feel no need to rank them. Perhaps Cziffra comes closer, and there are a couple of Liszt numbers here, but I think I would still know this is not Cziffra even if I would find it hard to pinpoint the detailed difference.
What gets this 2-disc set a 5-star rating from me is the special service it provides to me as a music lover. It brings me more of the playing of the unique and irreplaceable Cherkassky. He was diminutive in stature but big in personality, and I cannot hear playing like this elsewhere. I hope it is not dereliction of my duty as a reviewer if I say that I have not even troubled to assess these performances in any kind of league tables. Most of them stand a good chance of being some people’s favourites, and indeed the second of the two accounts here of Chopin’s A flat ballade may be mine, or at least first equal with the extraordinary performance of that underestimated composition by Guiomar Novaes. What I should stress is that nothing here is routine, and, really, nothing is quirky or wilful either. All of this playing is marked by both passion and intellect, and the formidable technical command is too obvious to need much comment.
All the recordings here date from the later 1950’s, and in the famous Litolff scherzo Cherkassky in partnered by the BBC SO under Sargent. The recorded quality strikes me as quite good, although perhaps a touch too close-to and resonant here and there. Details of the recording process are provided for the technically minded in the liner note, and I should really say that this liner note is better than average in several ways, of which the very small print is not one, although one understands the reasons for that, and I at least appreciate its succinctness and informativeness.
For all these reasons I salute this issue. I am sure many older music lovers will welcome it as much as I do, but in the nature of the case Cherkassky may be unknown to the new generation, and I commend it to these with especial fervour.