Shura Cherkassky at Wigmore Hall = Program: RAMEAU, HAYDN, HINDEMITH, CHOPIN, LISZT, BERKELEY, TCHAIKOVSKY – Wigmore Hall

by | Nov 23, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Shura Cherkassky at Wigmore Hall = RAMEAU: Gavotte and Doubles in A Minor; HAYDN: Sonata No. 34 in E Minor; HINDEMITH: Piano Sonata No. 3 in B-flat Major; CHOPIN: Ballade No. 3 in A-flat; Nocturne in F-sharp Minor, Op. 48, No. 2; Mazurka in F-sharp Minor, Op. 59, No. 3; Mazurka in G, Op. 67, No. 1; LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2; BERKELEY: Preludes, Op. 22, No. 5 and No. 6; Polka, Op. 5; TCHAIKOVSKY: October from “The Seasons” – Shura Cherkassky, piano

Wigmore Hall WHLive 0014,  76:43 [Distrib. Koch] ****:

This live recital by Shura Cherkassky (1909-1995) from Wigmore Hall 29 October 1993 confirms his legendary status as the Cheshire Cat among pianists, an artist who reveled in the liberation of technique to serve his own eccentric personality. A true colorist of the old school, Cherkassky often added playfully light touches and no end of nuances to the vast keyboard repertory at his disposal. Few could make Haydn sound like sparkling Scarlatti, as Cherkassky does in the E Minor Sonata, composed in Haydn’s unique treatment of the so-called stile brise. A lovely G Major Adagio yields to an ingenuous finale in the home key. Cherkassky’s opening selection, Rameau’s A Minor Variations with Six Doubles, uses a gavotte to exploit a wide palette in Cherkassky’s fingers, including seamless leaps in both hands. For sheer feistiness, try the perennial Hungarian Rhapsody in C-sharp Minor, whose combination of vulgarity and virtuosity bring down the house,

The angular classicism of Hindemith finds a clear, light-handed exponent in Cherkassky, who plays the Third Sonata, no less a favorite of Glenn Gould. The fleet sicilienne of the opening movement moves briskly, but even poet Cherkassky cannot always infuse Hindemith’s blunt prose with a gem-like flame. The obsessive scherzo races percussively in broken chords on one repeated germ motive. The fugato of the third movement adumbrates the contrapuntal impulses of the finale – Bach having become decidedly German – in which two fugue subjects intertwine through Cherkassky’s dextrous filigree. 

Chopin’s Third Ballade opening traverses three octaves of diaphanous beauty through Cherkassky, then proceeds to its lilting 6/8 riffs that move from liquid to imperious, vocal drama. The Nocturne adds to Cherkassky’s limited Chopin discography – he seemed to relish Op. 55, No. 1 beyond all other nocturnes – another velvet tapestry of introspective melancholy, although the piece moves to a tentative F-sharp Major.  Quicksilver accents mark each of the two mazurkas; if the harmonic world of Op. 59, No. 3 points to Gustav Moreau, that of Op. 67, No. 1 might find a parallel in Degas.

Cherkassky graciously explores three miniatures by Lennox Berkeley, two preludes (1944) and the little Polka, Op. 5 (1934). Music box sonority for the Prelude No. 5, with its seven beats per bar. No. 6 sounds rather bluesy, A-flat Gershwin crossed with a bit of Corelli. The Polka aspires to Poulenc and Chabrier, maybe the Shostakovich Age of Gold kindred spirit. Cherkassky ends this recital with compatriot Tchaikovsky, the Chant d’automne from The Months, Op. 37a. Darkly meditative, the piece under Cherkassky recalls Lenski’s farewell aria, or Francesca da Rimini’s lament, recalling past joys in the time of present misery.

— Gary Lemco

 

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