Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18 (1900-01) [35:30]
Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor Op.30 (1909) [41:13]
Shura Cherkassky (piano)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Sergiu Comissiona
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Sten Frykberg
rec. Gothenburg, live 9 February 1970 (No.2) and live 3 March 1968 (No.3)
CEMBAL DíAMOUR CD155 [76:44]

Cherkassky never recorded Rachmaninovís Second Piano Concerto so its survival in this live 1970 broadcast is an important addition to the impish magicianís discography. His Decca recording of the Third Concerto was made quite late in the day, and has already been augmented by a much earlier 1957 broadcast performance with the BBC Symphony and Rudolf Schwarz [BBC Legends BBCL4092] where it was coupled with Prokofievís Second Concerto with Nagano. Nevertheless this 1968 performance happily offers us another glimpse of his way with the work.

Both concertos were taped in concert in Gothenburg. For the Second Concerto he was joined by Sergiu Comissiona. Whether Cherkassky fits the bill as an exponent of the C minor is a moot point. In the opening movement, sculpted slowly and graphically, things come to paragraphal phrase ends and simply stand stock still, - like a hiker forgetting his walk and admiring the chasm below. This is decidedly peculiar, and prepares one for the caprice to come, the phrases that are thrown away, the glittering treble runs, the moments of pounding drama, the constant changes of dynamics, and the colouristic palette served up by this inimitable musician. Similarly the syntax of the slow movement is very different, as one might expect; personalised to a degree but powerfully realised. The finale is taken, again, deliberately, and itís very italicised playing indeed, albeit there are some gorgeous moments of Ďmusic boxí sonority. Itís very romantic, rhythmically disruptive, and rather draws attention to itself at the end. Itís not surprising that co-ordination problems occur Ė accompanying Cherkassky must have been like trying to catch sunlight Ė but for all that, as one so often finds oneself saying of this musician, itís a once-heard and never-forgotten type of performance. Itís a shame about the rather boxy recording and the crudely recorded percussion.

Two years earlier he had performed the Third Concerto with Sten Frykberg. Again there are plenty of unconventional things in this performance Ė in terms of tempo relations and phraseology and dynamics. He is never conventional and seldom does the expected thing. The dropped notes are an irrelevance, the finaleís increasingly galvanic aspect hard to ignore. Throughout, oneís impression is the same as that generated by his performance of the C minor; that the performances are those of a man breathing new and quixotic life into both concertos.

Jonathan Woolf

Cherkassky breathing new and quixotic life into these concertos.