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Shura Cherkassky
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Andante and Rondo Capriccioso Op.14 (1824) [6:17]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonata in A major D959 (1828) [35:21]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Carnaval (1834) [25:10]
Der Kontrabandiste arr. Carl Tausig [2:12]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Cradle Song in A flat minor Op.16 No.1 arr Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943) [4:13]
Shura Cherkassky (piano)
rec. November 1970, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4254-2 [76:50]
Experience Classicsonline

Released almost at the same time as the excellent conspectus on First Hand Recordings [FHR04] this Cherkassky BBC recital derives from a 1970 concert. The other item included at the QEH that night was Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 but this has already been extracted and used in volume five of the Cherkassky Decca/BBC set issued in 1994.

The old conjuror was in gorgeous form. His Mendelssohn is limpid and refined, the poetry of the Andante unstressed and liquid, whilst the stormier elements of the Rondo capriccioso are despatched with invincible brio and panache. It makes a splendid entrée. This is followed by Schubert’s A major sonata D959. He only had two Schubert sonatas in his active repertoire so we’re fortunate that examples of D664 and this one have survived. He stresses the melodic axis of the music in a reading of deft buoyancy and consonance. It’s lively, affectionate and richly voiced, with the result that contrastive material is more than somewhat downplayed. The warmly textured slow movement enfolds a B section that doesn’t rage, but is again a study in emotional control. A frisky Scherzo and a supple, refined finale complete a performance of generous ease; it’s an entirely different Schubertian ethos to many other performers, but that’s the value of it.

Carnaval again offers myriad opportunities for those sleight of hand inflexions, stresses and rhythmic subtleties that make his playing so mercurial and bewitching, There are certainly some energising tempi here, driving powerfully in the Préambule, whereas Eusebius is a model of limpid poetry. Coquette is played with a requisite arched eyebrow and Chopin is - of course - a gorgeously rich oasis. Few could tease as Cherkassky could; prepare to be duly teased in the Valse allemande. The Tchaikovsky Cradle Song was never commercially recorded which makes its appearance here all the more valuable, and an appropriately energising Der Kontrabandiste ends the recording with appropriate brio.

The sound quality is entirely unproblematic, and notes are good, as is usual from this source.

Jonathan Woolf 


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