WORKS: Etudes symphoniques, Op. 13; Kreisleriana; Prélude, Choral & Fugue
CATALOGUE NO: NI 7705 DDD
These three discs are part of an ongoing Cherkassky series from two record companies. Decca’s recordings are taken from 1970-91 BBC concerts, while Nimbus’s were recorded between 1984 and 1987 at its studios.
In spite of his extraordinary artistry, not everything Cherkassky does is perfect. However, you don’t listen to him for surface perfection but for moments, such as the cantilena duet that precedes the grand finale of the Etudes symphoniques on Nimbus, which ooze such mystery and songfulness that they more than compensate. The same is true of Decca’s Liszt disc: in the B minor Sonata, Cherkassky’s imagination and brilliant colours are of a unique intensity and flair, and the Liebestraum is deeply felt. The Decca Schumann disc is perhaps the most satisfying: the Etudes are performed with great panache and Carnaval is a treat – Cherkassky brings on the procession of the Davidsbündler with a grandeur that suggests flags flying! Nimbus offers a monumental performance of Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue, plus Kreisleriana, one of the works best suited to Cherkassky’s wayward dreamer style.
In sound quality, Decca varies from piece to piece, especially the Liszt, but although they have more hiss than Nimbus, the piano tone is more satisfying and songful. Nimbus’s background is quieter but the notes themselves make a woody noise which restricts the tone’s resonance. Jessica Duchen