Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor; Preludes, Op. 23/5, Op. 32/12 & Op. 3/2

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor; Preludes, Op. 23/5, Op. 32/12 & Op. 3/2
PERFORMER: Shura Cherkassky (piano); RPO/Yuri Temirkanov
CATALOGUE NO: 448 401-2
A sense of loss no doubt helped to keep me on the verge of tears as I listened to the final recordings Cherkassky made before his death last December; but then these also happen to be spell-binding performances in the deepest sense. Expect none of the usual adrenalin charge from this Rachmaninov Third Concerto; but it is impossible to resist the way that Cherkassky’s luminously caressed phrases and filigree work hover supernaturally on the edge of darkness. The mysticism evoked at the start reigns throughout. For once, the introspective heart of the finale never outstays its welcome (and remains intact; the only short cut taken is Cherkassky’s preference for the slimline version of the cadenza in the first movement). None of this could work so well without the cushion of orchestral sound floated by Temirkanov – a conductor who takes Rachmaninov’s inspirations very seriously indeed – and without the deep, rich recording perspectives.

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Incandescence hovers over the little recital which rounds off the disc. Cherkassky’s sleight of hand is epitomised by the conjuror’s dismissal at the end of the Barcarolle, and the early E major Mélodie enshrines the soul of his bel canto pianism: other-worldly playing to set, alongside a handful of Richter’s Rachmaninov Preludes, among the stars. David Nice