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Are there any recordings by Shura Cherkassky that people would recommend?

I am very intrigued by this unique pianist and would love to explore his work.

He seems to have been very much a character - he lived in The White House Hotel in London, used to love to go dancing after recitals, seems to have always played very quietly and slowly apart from when he was on stage, etc, etc.

Some years ago I heard a radio programme about him. One of the BBC sound engineers who often worked with him described how it was incredibly difficult to set up the sound levels prior to a performance. Cherkassky would be on the platform playing very quietly. The engineer would ask him to play at normal or full volume. Cherkassky would do that for a few seconds then go back to playing very quietly, then the sound engineers would ask him again ... etc, etc. The feeling came over that he, and others, felt a lot of affection for, and admiration of, Cherkassky.

Last edited by John_B; 11/17/10 10:45 AM.
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The Cherkassky/Susskind performance of the Tchaikovsky 2nd Concerto is the best I've heard. They give the third movement the kind of carnival-like atmosphere it deserves.

http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=2124

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Thanks for that recommendation.

The more I read about Cherkassky the more eager I am to explore his recordings. Many of the his recordings are live performances as he seems to have disliked studio recordings.

However,I came across this glowing review of the six CDs he recorded for Nimbus:

Review

A few snippets from that review:

"Mr. Cherkassky is thus one of the remaining handful of musicians who reflect the Romantic style. In a day when interpretations are highly standardized, he goes along in his own highly idiosyncratic, personal manner. It is a style that sometimes can be too perfumed for some people's tastes. But it also is a style that is poetic, can rise to authentic grandeur, can convey the emotional content of the music without neglecting its structure, and can make the younger generation's playing sound like pebbles rattling in a tin can."

"High spots? There is some Alpine playing on each disk, but certainly Mr. Cherkassky's performance of the Liszt Sonata is especially memorable. This is grand playing of the old school - a big, noble conception, logically flowing, every note controlled, and above all full of variety of color. In its way it ranks with the famous Horowitz recording of the 1930's. But this comparison is yin and yang. Horowitz is demonic, whereas Mr. Cherkassky is more relaxed. Mr. Horowitz captures the diablerie, Mr. Cherkassky the poetry."

"On Kreisleriana: Mr. Cherkassky does not try to make a virtuoso stunt out of this virtuoso piece. Instead he aims for the musical elements. For once, this piece sings instead of bangs."



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There is a very good and interesting bio of Cherkassky published fairly recently:
http://www.amazon.com/Shura-Cherkassky-Pianos-Last-Czar/dp/0810854104

I heard Cherkassky at Carnegie Hall and the 92nd Street Y in NYC. I also heard him play a memorial recital for Horowitz at Steinway Hall. His last piece on the program was the early Scriabin Etude in C# minor.


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Tchaikofsky 2/ Liszt Hungarian Fantasy (Karajan)


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He has two entries in Philips "Great Pianists of the 20th Century" series. It covers a lot of ground:
Vol 17
The complete Chopin Etudes
Fantasy in F
Barcarolle
The 3rd Sonata
The Preludes
a stray Mazurka and Nocturne

Vol 18
Tchaikovsky Concerto 1 and 2
Schumann Symphonic Etudes, Kreisleriana, and Arabesque
Shulz-Evler "Blue Danube" Arabesque

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I love his performance of Josef Hofmann's Kaleidoscope:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2faTb82FAw

And his recording of his own Prelude Pathetique is just beautiful:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Or7aKu-NGE

Such a wonderful piece. The middle section in F# major reminds me of Vissi d'Arte.


Mel


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I would have thought his status as a pedophile would have put people off his recordings.... you certainly don't see people asking after Pletnev recs these days on PW....

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JustAnotherPianist,

I have never heard Cherkassky mentioned in association with paedophilia.

I've just googled "Cherkassky" with both "pedofile" and (again) with "paedophile" and it didn't through up anything relevant.

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Originally Posted by JustAnotherPianist
you certainly don't see people asking after Pletnev recs these days on PW....


But you saw them prior to his arrest?

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I think Cherkassky is best heard live, as on his BBC Legends CD.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Well, I've initially gone for this:

Cherkassky: Berg and Liszt Sonatas, etc

But the 6 CD set of studio recordings from Nimbus (available for £13) also caught my eye as did the 2 CD set of 1950s HMV recordings from First Hand Records.

I will explore the concerto recordings later.

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Originally Posted by JustAnotherPianist
I would have thought his status as a pedophile would have put people off his recordings.... you certainly don't see people asking after Pletnev recs these days on PW....


As, when searching the web, I can find no other reference to Cherkassky being a paedophile I think you should either substantiate your accusation or withdraw it and apologise.

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well then, I suppose I have to apologise. You'll find nothing on the internet beyond his frequent visits to Thailand to confirm what I mistakenly thought was pretty well-known in the music world.
Even were such rumours true, it would have no effect on the quality of his work as a pianist.

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John B: hanging out on the Radio 3 message boards are we? wink (You'll find me there occasionally, but with a completely unrelated user-name to argerichfan.)

I haven't heard very many Cherkassky recordings -his playing seems not to be to my taste, bonbons like Saint-Saens/Godowsky Swan excepted- but there is one I think you should avoid: the Rubinstein D minor Concerto. Granted it dates from late in his career, but he seemed no longer able to summon up the sheer brutal bombast to bring off this rather faded concerto.

The piano's opening statement of the main theme is a good case in point: instead grandstanding, he minces. It all sounds so distressingly effeminate to me, and I'm glad I had only borrowed the CD instead of purchasing it.




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Originally Posted by argerichfan
John B: hanging out on the Radio 3 message boards are we?


Caught red handed!

Actually I've hung out on the Radio 3 message boards for many years but there are so many there who know infinitely more than me so I don't post all that often.

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JustAnotherPianist,

Yes, it does seem that he used to take annual holidays in Thailand. This is a very tricky subject when there are suppositions rather than hard evidence. Oh dear.

By the way, I am not part of the musical world, so any rumours or common knowledge wouldn't have come my way.

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Originally Posted by John_B
....Yes, it does seem that he used to take annual holidays in Thailand.....

Huh.......Now that's presumptive evidence of being a pedophile?

(Let's see, what do the places I go say about my criminal proclivities......hmmmm......the Bronx......I must be a drug-dealing drug-buying arsonist.....)

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
(Let's see, what do the places I go say about my criminal proclivities......hmmmm......the Bronx......I must be a drug-dealing drug-buying arsonist.....)
I would assume it meant you visited the Beethoven Pianos warehouse.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/18/10 03:27 PM.
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Originally Posted by John_B

Actually I've hung out on the Radio 3 message boards for many years but there are so many there who know infinitely more than me so I don't post all that often.

Sorry, OT:

Try hanging out in 'The Choir' section. There are some MAJOR heavyweights (many disguised with inside-joke usernames) from some very prominent English Church foundations. I know who a few of them are.

In general I find the Radio 3 boards excessively moderated.


Jason
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