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Ivory Classics Music

Shura Cherkassky: 1982 San Francisco Recital

Shura Cherkassky: 1982 San Francisco Recital

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Ivory Classics CD-70904
Shura Cherkassky: 1982 San Francisco Recital

Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)

Piano: Shura Cherkassky

Producer: Michael Rolland Davis
Engineer: Ed Thompson

Piano: Steinway
(DDD) Recorded: April 18, 1982, at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, California.

Mastered using 20-Bit State-of-the-Art Technology - HDCD Encoded

Original Producers: Marina & Victor Ledin
Original Engineer: Jack Vad

Shura Cherkassky (1911-1995), as a pupil of the legendary Josef Hofmann, was imbued in the nineteenth-century tradition of Romantic piano playing. His recordings and performances are testaments to an art form that few could master. In this live recital, digitally recorded in San Francisco in 1982, this titan among pianists performs a suite by Lully; Tchaikovsky's Grand Sonata in G, Opus 37; and pieces by Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Hofmann.


Shura Cherkassky was the Puck of pianists. His mercurial genius really flourished in front of an audience. This 1982 San Francisco recital is arguably the best of them all. In the Tchaikovsky Grand Sonata in G major, the centerpiece of this program, Cherkassky creates a sense of buoyancy and fleetness without neglecting the music's essential grandeur. Even the big chordal passages dance, revealing this underrated sonata as something of a sleeping beauty. In Lully's French Suite, Cherkassky's delicate ornaments are as stunning as the filigree on a Faberge egg. The recital also includes an impetuously dramatic and ecstatically lyrical interpretation of Chopin's great Polonaise Fantasie. A priceless document of one of the last great romantic pianists.

Barnes and, Apr. 2000

The death in 1995 of Shura Cherkassky deprived the world of one of music's remarkable keyboard virtuosi, a colorist of dexterity and wry imagination, whose early training with Josef Hofmann made him a living link with the palette and ethos of 19th Romanticism. This recital derives from a concert of April 18, 1982, with a program that extends from Lully's charming Suite de Pieces to Tchaikovsky's percussive, stentorian Grand Sonata in G, Op. 37, with other works by Mendelssohn, Chopin and Hofmann. The Lully, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and the Chopin A-flat Waltz will be new to collectors of Cherkassky.

Cherkassky's delicate expressivity is suave in the Lully Suite, an arrangement of pieces Oesterle made for Schirmer in 1904. Those who know Cherkassky's way with Rameau's A Minor Variations from his Maltings, Snape recital in Britain will not be surprised at the pearly play Cherkassky can bring to salon pieces, where he can add filigree at will. The Lully comes off as an exquisite partita in French taste. Mendelssohn's "Scherzo a Capriccio" was an occasional Horowitz item; Cherkassky makes it as elfin as anyone can play it. No degree of subtlety can redeem Tchaikovsky's awkward writing in the Sonata: it is a thundering brew of Schumann's Op. 11 and bits from Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream," conceived more like one of his orchestral suites than an idiomatic keyboard work. Still, Cherkassky makes it sing when he can, and the second movement even communicates some charm. The Scherzo seems a study for the Hofmann "Kaleidoskop" that appears in the program, a brilliant reading that brings the house to its feet. The Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie, a piece Cherkassky inscribed for DG, is an episodic work hard to connect emotionally, but Cherkassky again provides an overview early in his statement of its quirky rhythm and fluttering melos. The encore, the two-four waltz, is typically impish, in the way Cherkassky could convince you that the recital had been given by the Cheshire Cat. Highly recommended.

Audiophile Audition, Mar. 2000

Ivory Classics deserves an award for the consistency of its catalog. At least four of their 1999 issues are worthy of joining my want list this year. If I reluctantly skip over Wild and Slenczynska, it's because both pianists have figured prominently on my want lists in past years - and because I don't believe Cherkassky has been as well represented by any single disc in the catalog as he is by the luscious 1982 San Francisco recital put out by Ivory Classics earlier this year, a CD that documents his style at its most persuasive.

Fanfare Magazine, Dec. 1999

Cherkassky was quirky, eccentric, mercurial, and capricious, but never less than engaging and colorful. In the Lully suite, it's the play of manners that counts - and he does it well, too: imaginatively, with a mischievous charm and a feathery touch. Mr. Cherkassky, who certainly had one of the most vivid pianistic imaginations imaginable, delivers a bel canto view of the underrated Tchaikovsky sonata. He had one of the most active ankles in the business. His feet simply never stopped moving. Few pianists have understood the potential of the pedals (all three of them) to enhance musical nuance and gesture. Mr. Cherkassky had a command of half tints and flutter pedals second to none. This Polonaise Fantasy is a welcome relief from the martial arts treatment it's normally subjected to. This reading is fresh, revealing, and full of surprises. To say Shura Cherkassky was unique and incomparable is an understatement.

American Record Guide, Aug. 1999

This recital of Shura Cherkassky is sumptuous in touch, flexible in rhythm, and eccentric in voicing. His self-consciously unorthodox Polonaise Fantaisie offers such radical rethinking of articulation and vertical balance that it sometimes seems as if the music were being recomposed on the spot. Indeed, I can think of few other discs that so exuberantly flaunt the pianist's improvisatory style. Add to this Ivory Classics, typical stellar production values, and you have one of the most seductive Cherkassky releases in the catalog.

Fanfare Magazine, Aug. 1999

Still at the top of his game, Cherkassky was 71 when he played this provocative program - provocative because the items by Lully and Hofmann are novelties, as is the revived Tchaikovsky Grand Sonata, and because the entirety demands unflagging virtuosity as well as a versatile musical mind. The late Cherkassky had it all, of course, and the playing here lives up to the reputation of this quirky and legendary pianist. His technique is unassailable, his taste exquisite. He was great, and he was unique.

Daniel Cariaga, Los Angeles Times, May. 1999

The Lully, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and the Chopin A-flat Waltz on this live recital disc will be new to collectors of Cherkassky. His delicate expression is suave in the Lully Suite. This suite comes off as an exquisite Partita in French taste. Cherkassky makes the Mendelssohn Scherzo a Capriccio as elfin as anyone can play it. The Hofmann Kaleidoskop is a brilliant reading that brings the house to its feet. Highly recommended.

Audiophile Audition, Apr. 1999

Shura Cherkassky was an interesting and important pianist. Born in Odessa, he built an impressive career. He made many notable recordings and gave many memorable concerts. He had a very broad repertoire. Cherkassky had a big technique and wide dynamic range, but a small ego, which translates to mean that he could do whatever he wanted in virtually any kind of repertory but eschewed virtuosic grandstanding at all costs in the interests of his art. He could play with delicacy, could impart a sort of epic warmth and bigness that colored his playing with an empathetic humanity and visceral but tasteful power. His Polonaise Fantasie here is dreamy and full of color, a bit eccentric - but tastefully eccentric. Cherkassky's A-flat Waltz is atmospheric and thrilling, rich in color and character. This disc is a must for pianophiles. Cherkassky was 71 when he gave this concert, and I'll assert that his technique was as intact as Horowitz's or Rubinstein's at that age. Ivory Classics offers splendid mastering of sound that was probably pretty good from the start and supplies excellent notes. Highly recommended!, Dec. 1998
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