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Shura Cherkassky

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At his death, Cherkassky was almost universally remembered as the last great Romantic pianist. Cherkassky combined Romantic sensitivity of touch with the power of a modern player, and he traveled easily between works by the Romantics and those by Ives, Hindemith, Boulez, and Ligeti. This blend of talents served him well, particularly in works such as Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. His parents brought him to the United States in 1923, and within a few years he began studies with Josef Hofmann at the newly founded Curtis Institute. Among his early performances were one with Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony Orchestra, a performance at the White House, and a tour in 1928 that included Australia and South Africa. Although he also made a few recordings during the 1920s and 1930s, his career did not really take off until after World War II and his move to London. By that time, the pianists, like Hofmann, who had learned from the nineteenth century greats Liszt, Moszkowski, and others, were no longer around. Cherkassky was acknowledged as the heir of that particular school of performance, and just as Liszt and the others had had their own idiosyncrasies, he had his own individual style that seemed to give fresh meaning to everything he played. He toured almost continually around the world during his career, making some time nearly every year to take a holiday in Thailand. He made a successful debut in Russia in 1976 and returned for subsequent tours in 1977 and 1987. In 1986, New York's 92nd Street Y began annually presenting the Shura Cherkassky Recital Award to young artists, in honor of the many recitals Cherkassky had given there. Most of his recordings were made later in his life and cover most of his Romantic repertoire. The best representations of his work can be found on the Decca and Nimbus labels.

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