The story concerns a disenfranchised samurai, Gengobe (Katsuo Nakamura, veteran of dozens of Japanese movies including the spooky Kwaidan), one of a band of samurai aspiring to take vengeance for the death of their master. Gengobe seems to have lost interest in vengeance, however, and prefers instead to shack up with Koman (Yasuko Sanjo), a geisha he’s been hoarding money to buy out of bondage. That money was supposed to be earmarked for funding the vendetta. He is confident that Koman loves him; after all, didn’t she get a tattoo that declares her undying love for him?
Shura Cherkassky (1909-1995) was one of the greatest piano virtuosos of his time having studied under the legendary Josef Hofmann. This WDR studio broadcast sourced from the original master tapes has Cherkassky playing Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini from 1970 in superb stereo. He recorded the Rhapsody only once in 1953 for EMI in mono but it has never been issued on CD so this taping is exceptionally important and adds a major work to Cherkassky’s large discography. Prokofiev’s wartime Piano Sonata No.7 was never recorded commercially by Cherkassky so this is another addition to his discography sourced from WDR’s original master tapes. It was recorded in 1951 when Cherkassky was fast becoming a star in Germany. The three scenes from Stravinsky’s Petruschka was a favourite virtuoso work for Cherkassky and this 1951 recording shows him at his most brilliant, sourced from WDR’s original master tapes. Three encores have been added from 1951 and 1953 (not sourced from WDR) which again showcase Cherkassky’s incredible technique during the early period of his career in Germany.
During World War II, 19 year old soldier Alyosha gets a medal as a reward for a heroic act at the front. Instead of this medal he asks for a few days leave to visit his mother and repair the roof of their home. On the train eastwards he meets Shura who is on her way to her aunt. In those few days traveling together they fall in love.
"…The real meat of the disc is the Symphonic Etudes. This is a work that has had two fine portrayals on Super Audio–by Mikhail Pletnev and especially Vladimir Tropp. And while sonically the Schmitt-Leonardy is not in Tropp's league, his is a very moving performance. Again, the first thing I notice is the sense of time and space. Schmitt-Leonardy is at great pains to let every phrase register, to let chords fully decay, and when the spirit calls to rush impetuously forward. This is true Romanitc playing…" ~sa-cd.net