P0066. SHURA CHERKASSKY: Festival Hall, London; Sonata #2 in b-flat, Live Performance, 6 March 1982, Queen’s University, Belfast; Fantaisie in f, Live Performance, 7 May, 1973, BBC Birmingham Studios (all Chopin). (Germany) Decca Ermitage 455 078. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 8014394121854
“Although Shura Cherkassky came from a belle epoque of great piano playing, one where the cultivation of character and individuality was paramount, he could never be termed ‘the last of the great Romantics’ for, in a sense, he represented no other tradition than his own. Asked in 1991 to write a celebratory tribute for his 80th birthday, I found myself chasing quantities as elusive as quicksilver. Pin them down and they wriggled away with the pin. Cherkassky would have been delighted by my dilemma, rejoicing to the end in a life-affirming caprice and liberation that defied neat analysis or a tidy sense of category.
Cherkassky studied chiefly with Joseph Hofmann, that master of the inner voice, texture, harmony and rhythm. From Hofmann he learnt that even an outwardly innocent score possesses secret nooks and crannies and, once the essential groundwork was done (and Cherkassky was among the most tireless workers in the business), the possibilities were virtually unlimited. Cherkassky used this priceless legacy to supreme advantage, demonstrating in the most positive and reassuring sense that you could never fully ‘know’ a work; that, like some multi-faceted jewel, it could be turned in the light to reveal a myriad colours and perspectives.
For long a London resident, Cherkassky gave concert after concert in his adopted city, red-letter days even in the teeming life of such a musical centre. His audiences were invariably capacity ones, liberally peppered with pianists who shook their heads in disbelief at that extraordinary blend of charm, elfin mischievousness and transcendental pianism. Single- minded and, indeed, obsessive, Cherkassky never taught (‘I could never teach, not for a second, not for a moment’) and successfully eluded invitations to appear on the juries of competitions, seeing them as venues of the standardisation he so instinctively disliked. It is no exaggeration to say that few pianists in the history of piano playing have been held in such awe and affection.”
- Bryce Morrison, THE INDEPENDENT, 29 Dec., 1995