Recorded in Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London, 1956 & 1958 and Kingsway Hall, London 1958
R E V I E W:
To commemorate what would have been pianist Shura Cherkassky's 100th birthday in 2009, First Hand brings together all of the mercurial and charismatic virtuoso's stereo HMV recordings. All are new to CD except for eight titles previously reissued by Testament in mono. Save for the gorgeously engineered, playfully dispatched Litolff Scherzo, the stereo sonics are a trifle boxy and frayed around the edges in comparison with the label's best sounding piano discs of that era (Solomon's Beethoven Op. 90, for example). Still, this is vintage Cherkassky.
He achieves expressive variety in the Bach/BusoniRead more Chaconne through tone color and nuance rather than tempo fluctuation, while in the Liszt 13th Rhapsody and Faust Waltz Paraphrase, repeated phrases emerge with freshly minted inner voices and accentuations. Cherkassky naughtily "winds down" the final measure of Liadov's Musical Snuffbox, and renders a leaner, less garish Saint-Saëns/Godowsky "The Swan" than what I remember from the pianist's later, plusher readings.
The Chopin E-flat Waltz and F minor Op. 7 No. 3 Mazurka define charm and personality. So do the Second and Third Ballades, although Cherkassky's modified dynamics sidestep the F major middle section's agitated qualities. Of the two A-flat Ballade takes, I prefer the more fluid and cleaner "alternate" reading. Cherkassky's unusually lyrical conceptions of the Rachmaninov B-flat and G minor Preludes are as convincing as his lily-gilding, elephantine Gershwin D-flat Prelude is stylistically clueless. That won't deter Cherkassky mavens, of course! All told, a worthwhile release from an enterprising new label.