Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini op.43 [25:44] (1)
Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano Sonata no.7 in B flat major op.83 [19:31] (2)
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Three Scenes from Petrushka [17:45] (3)
Polka de W.R. [4:05] (4)
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764) arr. Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
Tambourin [2:57] (5)
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Bourrée fantasque [5:34] (6)
Shura Cherkassky (piano) (1-6)
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra/Zdenek Mácal (1)
rec. Saal 1, Funkhaus, Cologne (1-3), Villa Berg, Stuttgart (4-5), Munich (6), 17 April 1970 (1), 21 January 1951 (2-3), 3 March 1953 (4-5), 1951 (6)
ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5020 [76:28]

Experience Classicsonline

One of my most treasured memories is of a performance in Edinburgh of Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto by Shura Cherkassky with the Scottish National Orchestra under David Atherton. This would have been around 1974. Though his tone was not exactly “big” it had a vibrant, ringing quality which was never hard yet soared effortlessly over the orchestra in the final pages. Mention of this caused another musician to recall a similarly enthralling performance at around the same time in Holland, perhaps the greatest performance of the concerto he had ever heard.

The early 1970s, then seemed a great time for Cherkassky in Rachmaninov. They also witnessed some concerto recordings – Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Schumann – with the unlikely partnership of Sir Adrian Boult. These had a mixed reception. All the same, the discovery of this previously unissued Paganini Rhapsody seemed exciting. Especially since, as the informative notes by Alan Thorpe Albeson tell us, Cherkassky recorded the piece officially only once, in 1953 with the Philharmonia under Herbert Menges. This disc has never been issued on CD and I haven’t heard it.

Maybe you have to hear Cherkassky live to get his full flavour. In the end this didn’t turn out to be the revelation I had hoped. Of course there are fine things, but he is less mercurial than I expected and he pulls the music around excessively. Variation VI, for example, marked to be played at the same tempo as the previous one, suddenly goes slow. How naturally Benno Moiseiwitsch handles this, with a rallentando where it is marked but only there. I have his later version with Hugo Rignold, by the way. Cherkassky makes a succulent meal of the famous Variation XVIII, subjecting it to a dynamic scheme of his own. Again, one returns gratefully to Moiseiwitsch, not to speak of Rachmaninov himself. And what is the point of the sudden drop to piano in the middle of the first enunciation of the “Dies Irae” theme? I suppose you just shouldn’t follow a Cherkassky performance with the score, yet why should he have some special dispensation not granted to others? Following Moiseiwitsch with the score won’t cause anyone’s hackles to rise. At times Cherkassky is so systematic in his reversal of what is written that one even wonders if he actually believed that “forte” means “soft”, “piano” means “loud”, “crescendo” means “getting softer” and “diminuendo” means “getting louder”. But no, occasionally he does them right, so I suppose the answer is that he was just out to do his own thing. Possibly all this worked in a way if you were actually there. Equally possibly, his Rachmaninov Paganini wasn’t the equal of his Rachmaninov 3. Macal follows him well, so unsympathetic conducting doesn’t seem to have been the problem.

Given that the other recordings are much older, let me assure listeners that they sound extremely well for their age. Indeed, they don’t sound twenty years older than the Rachmaninov.

Albeson tells us that Cherkassky did not make an official recording of the Prokofiev, though it was in his repertoire. I must say, if I had been an A&R manager listening to the broadcast here I wouldn’t exactly have dashed hotfoot to sign up the performance. When we listen to Ignaz Friedman applying highly subjective rubato to Rubinstein’s Romance in E flat we accept this because it is part of the style of the music. To hear Cherkassky treating the slow movement of Prokofiev 7 like a salon trinket is bizarre to say the least. The first movement, too, falls apart as it alternates between headlong charge and shapeless drooling. Nowhere do we find that steely control, expressed in orchestral-style rhythms and hinting at deep emotion beneath, that can be heard when the likes of Richter play this composer. The one success is the finale, taken steadily but without eccentricities and with mounting excitement.

Cherkassky studied the Stravinsky with the composer. Maybe this explains why he observes the markings in the score more closely in this case. Here, at last, we have the Cherkassky of legend, with some truly magical textures and impish characterization. It is all so ear-inducing that one hardly notices the fact that it is often much slower than most orchestral performances one has heard. For all Cherkassky’s sleight of hand it plods here and there. Still, this is a performance that piano connoisseurs must hear. A later version of this work, from a live recital in London, was issued “officially”.

Cherkassky-watchers knew that, even when he was at rock-bottom worst, it was worth gritting your teeth and bearing it for the sake of the encores. And so it is here. The teasing rubato of the Rachmaninov Polka is the stuff of legends. Of the Rameau-Godowsky I can only say that, if you want to hear such an aberration, it couldn’t be better done. I just wish Cherkassky had lavished his colouristic gifts on Rameau’s charming original. The Chabrier is a scintillating display, and another piece that he apparently didn’t set down otherwise. Certain jabbing sforzatos come out with a hard metallic tone. However, in the light of my opening memories of Cherkassky’s ringing but never hard tone, I’m inclined to think he was applying too much pressure on the microphones rather than on the piano itself.

Maybe this disc should never have been reviewed. For Cherkassky-ites it will be enough to know that it exists. They will want to decide for themselves how much of the best Cherkassky is here. The only useful thing I can tell them is that the recordings themselves are good. If you’re looking for the best version available of any of the pieces here, in the case of the last three brief tracks this could well be it. Over to you.

Christopher Howell


































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.