Notes and Editorial Reviews
This wizardly recital, reasonably though not optimally recorded at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1974 – hissy and a touch of clangour – brings us a phalanx of wondrous things. The first is the Rameau which one would, perhaps wrongly, not otherwise associate with Cherkassky. He plays it with wonderfully engaging touch, the left hand pointing with such élan, the bass extensions so resonantly controlled. The deftness of his articulation conjoins with the gallant generosity of his music making in the most effortless and life-enhancing way. There’s little drollery here and no artifice, simply an affirmation of the tonal and timbral beauty of which Cherkassky was so august a practitioner.
His Pathétique will not suit all
tastes, perhaps, but he convinces us as we listen. He palpably holds back in the opening movement, creating a fruitful sense of tension, but once he begins to vest the music with his full rhythmic power he drives ahead. Maybe there is a degree too much italicisation in the slow movement but Cherkassky’s colouristic sense allows a certain coalescing spirit to merge, an unfolding lyricism of great warmth. Verve and rhythmic vivacity are natural bedfellows in his finale but so too is a disarming subtlety.
The Mendelssohn is a locus classicus of Cherkassky’s art. The memorability resides in the rich cantabile, the engulfing drama of the phraseology, the appositeness of the touch and pedalling, the ebullience of the Presto, the definable clarity of each strand, the crispness of the chording, and the aliveness and sheer verve of the playing. In short, a little miracle of poetic feeling. So too is the Chopin Nocturne with its very strong contrasts and telling rubati, full of suffused pain. The Scherzo is illuminated by pearl sharp tone but also a few finger slips. It sings with abandon but can sound a rather pushed, almost as if the slips slightly rattled him.
Scriabin and Tchaikovsky were Cherkassky staples. The former make a powerfully contrasting pair, the fifth etude limpid and delicate, the sixth full of intense power. The triptych of Russian works is completed with the contrasting Tchaikovsky, a melancholy and affecting traversal perfectly attuned to the expressive restraint of the piece. And finally – as if this wasn’t enough – we have the thunderous Réminiscences de Don Juan. In Cherkassky’s hands this is not a Barere-like pile-driver, a merely scintillating and ultra-dextrous recital closer. It becomes a lexicon of colour, dramatic projection, teasing wit and monumental finger control. And it makes for a suitable end to this inimitable recital.
Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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