Shura Cherkassky: Saint-Saëns & Liszt

Shura Cherkassky was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1909 and died in London in 1995. He was initially taught by his mother who had played for Tchaikovsky, but when the family moved to the US in 1923, he studied with his long-time teacher and mentor, the legendary Josef Hofmann, before auditioning for Rachmaninov. Prior to World War II, he had made his name in the US but from 1945 he extensively toured Europe and settled in London in 1961. The last of the great Romantic tradition of pianists, Cherkassky was described by Bryce Morrison as a ‘mercurial genius’, a unique personality, blessed with an incredible technique, who delighted in defying convention as no performance was identical. For a musician reluctant to visit the studio, live performances were the showcase for his stunning virtuosity and creativity caught on the wing.

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Shura Cherkassky was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1909 and died in London in 1995. He was initially taught by his mother who had played for Tchaikovsky, but when the family moved to the US in 1923, he studied with his long-time teacher and mentor, the legendary Josef Hofmann, before auditioning for Rachmaninov. Prior to World War II, he had made his name in the US but from 1945 he extensively toured Europe and settled in London in 1961. The last of the great Romantic tradition of pianists, Cherkassky was described by Bryce Morrison as a ‘mercurial genius’, a unique personality, blessed with an incredible technique, who delighted in defying convention as no performance was identical. For a musician reluctant to visit the studio, live performances were the showcase for his stunning virtuosity and creativity caught on the wing.

The Saint-Saëns Concerto no.2 was never recorded by Cherkassky and here, accompanied by Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO, this live 1983 performance from the Edinburgh Festival is mesmerising.

The Liszt Concerto no.1, recorded live in 1983 at the Royal Festival Hall, shows Cherkassky in dazzling virtuoso form with the BBCSO and Del Mar.

The three solo additions from a recital in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1979 reveal Cherkassky’s more serious side in Beethoven as well as his magical playing of Paderewski and Chopin.

Superb stereo recordings with a detailed accompanying essay from Bryce Morrison.