More history this week. From the 1985 BBC Proms festival, a performance by the Swedish Radio Symphony, led by Sixten Ehrling and featuring the legendary Shura Cherkassky, piano solo.
The program features three main works: Symphony Number 2 by Wilhelm Stenhammar – Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Number 1, with Shura Cherkassky as soloist – and ends with music from Prokofiev’s Ballet Romeo and Juliet.
The Stenhammar symphony is receiving its first performance in the UK at these proms – so it winds up being a historic occasion for a number of reasons.
From Cherkassky’s Wikipedia Page:
Cherkassky was born in Odessa, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) in 1909. Cherkassky’s family fled to the United States to escape the Russian Revolution.
Cherkassky’s first music lessons were from his mother, Lydia Cherkassky, who once played for Tchaikovsky in St. Petersburg. She also taught the pianist Raymond Lewenthal. In the United States, Cherkassky continued his piano studies at the Curtis Institute of Music under Josef Hofmann. Before studying with Hofmann, however, Cherkassky auditioned for Sergei Rachmaninoff, who advised him to give up performing for at least two years and to change the position of his hands at the keyboard. Conversely, Hofmann suggested Cherkassky should continue giving concerts, and this long association with public performance meant that Cherkassky felt comfortable before an audience. Hofmann also recommended that he practice for four hours every day and Cherkassky did this religiously throughout his life, maintaining an extensive repertoire (baroque to Berio) to an exacting standard. His studies and advisory sessions with Hofmann continued until 1935. In the interim he began his lifelong obsession with world travel with trips to Australia, New Zealand, the Far East, Russia and Europe.
Cherkassky performed actively until the end of his life, and many of his best recordings were made under live concert recital conditions.
Over seven decades of his concert career, starting in the 1920s, Cherkassky made a large number of recordings for RCA Victor, Vox, Swedish Cupol label, HMV, DG (the famous Tchaikovsky concerto recordings, and a later stereo recording of Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan), Tudor, Nimbus and Decca (‘live’ BBC recordings). He made his last recordings at age 85, in May 1995, seven months before his death. These were a selection of Rachmaninov’s pieces to act as fillers for his recording of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 made the previous year.
In addition, the concert is laced with encores and some pretty enthusiastic prom audiences.
Good times all around – and it makes for some perfect Anti-Road Rage Wednesday music – and under the circumstances, today it’s needed the most.