INKPOT#56 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: The Essential Richter- The Virtuoso

The Essential Richter – The Virtuoso

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)
Italian concerto in F, BMV 971 (Presto)ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Toccata in C, Op 7

FREDERIC CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Etudes, Op.10, Nos.1, 2, 4 and 12.
Etudes, Op.25, Nos.6, 8, 12 and 24

CARL MARIA VON WEBER (18 )
Sonata No.3 in D minor, Op.49 (Rondo: Presto)

JOHANNES BRAHMS (18 -1897)
Piano Pieces Op.118 No.3: Ballade, and Op.119 No.4: Rhapsody
Sonata No.2 in F-sharp minor, Op.2 (3rd movement: scherzo)

FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)
Transcendental Etudes Nos. 5, 8 and 10.
Concert Study No.2 “Gnomenreigen”
Piano Concerto No.2 in A*

SVIATOSLAV RICHTER piano
*London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirill Kondrashin

PHILIPS Classics 454 168-2
[78’01”] full-price


Johann D’Souza


“Sviatoslav Richter is an extraordinary phenomenon,” Shostakovich once wrote, ” He is the pride of the Soviet performing school. The enormity of his talent staggers and enraptures. All the phenomena of musical art are accessible to him, from most intimate lyricism to grandiose patho… But Richter never stops at what has achieved, never rests on his laurels. He is continuously moving ahead…”

In fact this disc, entitled “The Virtuoso”, is only the tip of the iceberg – for those who had the privilege of knowing Richter knew that while he was a student he was already packing in overcrowded houses just to hear him play. His teacher Heinrich Neuhaus had often commented that it was he himself who learnt things from Richter and not the other way. In fact Rosina Lhevinne once commented that “[r]arely have the vaults of Carnegie Hall heard anything of this kind”.

The pieces on this disc range from the near impossible to difficult expressive pieces like the Brahms Klavierstucke (Piano Pieces). Richter’s fondness for Chopin is seen on this disc by a rather big collection of Etudes from both Op.10 & 25 and the lone Prelude in D minor, op.28 no.24. Most pianists would testify that the Etudes are no ordinary set of concert studies but pieces of extreme technical difficulty, needing a player of great dexterity to play them with conviction.

His interpretation of Schumann’s Toccata is rather heavy-handed, with the notes sounding rather pounded and lacking the spontaneity which Horowitz or Berezovsky have given in their “live” performances – although the speed is not in doubt.

One disappointment with this disc is the fact that they have left out the Rachmaninov Preludes or Etudes Tableaux which he had recorded but on another label. His playing of Rachmaninov, with his forceful chords and strength in his dexterity has made him one of the leading exponents of Rachmaninov’s music. The disc ends on a very good account of the Liszt Second Piano Concerto in A. The performance is marred by his unusual sense of control which I found to be lacking in any consistency. I suppose the main difference he makes for are these inconsistencies, which are a marvel because while some would disagree with them, others may just find it to be very interesting.



For those of you in Singapore, this set can be purchased (or ordered) from Sing Discs (Raffles City), HMV (The Heeren), Tower (Pacific Plaza) or Borders (Wheelock Place).

Johann D’Souza

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217: 28.6.98

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