They don’t make them like Cherkassky any more, as this joyous evening shows.
A Cherkassky recital was one of life’s inenarrable treats and this live recording captures more vividly than most the experience, prompting memories of the elfin figure tripping daintily on to the platform, his head turning almost purple with fierce concentration in the opening minutes, the teasing, the charming…they don’t make them like him any more.
Here is Rameau’s Gavotte variée, once a favourite of Leschetizky and, indeed, Cherkassky follows the phrasing and dynamics of Fischer’s “as played by Leschetizky” edition of the music. The way Cherkassky highlights different voices in the repeat of Var 3 gives an earlyRead more indication that on the evening of October 29, 1993, he was on top form. A different weight, touch and character for the deftly articulated Haydn and again for the Hindemith (typical Cherkassky programming), a performance that transcends its contrapuntal severity and almost persuades our affection.
Then Chopin. I’ve met several pianists over the years who heard Josef Hofmann in concert. They affirmed independently of each other that no one has ever subsequently quite matched his range of tonal colours (his discs give no indication of this). But here, surely, we are hearing Hofmann’s legacy to his pupil: I doubt whether the F sharp minor Nocturne has ever been played as beautifully as here, and not even Hofmann could match Cherkassky’s wistful introspection. Contrast that with the mischievously camp treatment of Berkeley’s Polka (a companion to Shostakovich’s) and the terpsichorean Liszt Rhapsody, rare illustrations of a pianist clearly having the time of his life, followed, appositely, by “October” from The Seasons. Russian melancholy, yes, but also Cherkassky’s own. A disc to treasure.