TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in b-flat minor, Op. 23. Piano Concerto No. 2 in G, Op. 44
Shura Cherkassky, pianist/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leopold Ludwig (No. 1) and Richard Kraus (No. 2)
Deutsche Grammophon 457 751 (M) (ADD) TT: 69:19 

This welcome reissue (first time on CD for both) offers Shura Cherkassky's distinctive performances of the first two Tchaikovsky piano concertos. In both there is an abundance of virtuosity, but never of the flamboyant, slap-dash Horowitzian variety. Cherkassky's elegant performing style is always apparent, with a wide range of dynamics, color and delicacy all beautifully captured by the fine monophonic recordings of 1952 and 1956. Now at mid-price we have both of these extraordinary performances for just about the cost of one of them on LP many years ago. The Concerto No. 2 is given in the Siloti abridged version of the second movement; thus we are deprived of violin and cello solos heard in complete versions. Cherkassky's 1981 stereo recording on Vox with Walter Susskind and the Cincinnati Symphony also uses the abbreviated score (Vox 5139).

More of Cherkassky's Tchaikovsky can be heard via an outstanding recent issue on Ivory Classics, a masterful performance of the Grand Sonata in G, Op. 37, recorded during a concert April 18, 1982 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco (Ivory Classics 70904). As Cherkassky made few concerto recordings, this DGG issue is particularly welcome. His 1960 recording of Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy with Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic is available (DG 419 862); unfortunately his sensitive performance of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Rudolf Kempe and the Royal Philharmonic recorded for the Reader's Digest and issued on LP by them has only briefly appeared on CD (Minuet 160013). His Liszt Concerto No. 1, with Anatole Fistoulari and the Philharmonia Orchestra, recorded the same year as the Tchaikovsky First, is on Testament (SBT 1033), and for examples of earlier Cherkassky solo recordings, try a fine Biddulph CD of performances recorded from 1923 to 1928 (LHW 034). All highly recommended!

R.E.B. (Sept. 1999)