Shura Cherkassky

Chopin: Etudes

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As far as Urania is concerned, either you know who Shura Cherkassky is or you don't because the label is not going to tell you any more about him. It'll tell you that the recording was made in 1955 and that it is in the public domain and that it was remastered in Italy. It'll tell you that he's playing all 27 of Chopin's etudes, the 12 from Op. 10, and the 12 from Op. 25, plus the 3 Nouvells Etudes. But they don't tell you that Cherkassky was one of the last great Romantic pianists and one of the greatest Chopin/Liszt pianists of all time.

In 1955, Cherkassky was a mere 46 and at the peak of his powers. While there are still slipped notes and smudged phrases here and there, what great Romantic pianists didn't slip and smudge on occasion? More important than Cherkassky's technique is Cherkassky's tone, the pearly radiance of it glittering and glistening in waves of sound. And more important than Cherkassky's tone is Cherkassky's interpretations, bright to the point of brilliance, original to the point of uniqueness, lucid to the point luminosity. Cherkassky's Chopin is not a sentimental composer of salon trifles. Cherkassky's Chopin was a supremely intelligent, sublimely poetic composer of transcendentally virtuosic music. Urania's sound is serviceable at best.

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