Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann & Chopin

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Schubert,Schumann & Chopin
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Sviatoslav Richter
WORKS: Works by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann & Chopin
PERFORMER: Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
The fourth BBC Legends CD of Richter’s UK performances recorded live is quite as enthralling as its predecessors. The BBC archive material on which it draws features chronologically the earliest Richter concerts in the series so far: two 1963 recitals at London’s Royal Festival Hall, given three years after his belated first appearances in the West and two years after his first-ever recital in Britain (also at the RFH).


He was often uneasy during those first Western exhibitions – Bruno Monsaingeon’s volume of Richter’s notebooks and conversations makes this plain, and also that he never felt much at home in England. Whether for these or other reasons, some awesomely live-wire, challenging pianistic artistry is here on display. As Misha Donat’s booklet essay underlines, all the performances are linked by a thread of pianistic risk-taking at the highest level. Their goal was not virtuosic show-off – this never in the least interested Richter – but rather poetic vision pursued to its limits.


In the second Beethoven Op. 14 Sonata and the Schumann Abegg Variations, the fabulous lightness of touch, temper and colouring shows the imaginative process at its most radiant and listener-transporting. The first Op. 14 Sonata’s middle movement goes at a tempo roughly half what most Beethovenians, such as Kovacevich, choose: the result is a proto-Schubertian poignancy that enthralled me but will surely trouble some. Numerous finger-spills as well as abundant thrills characterise the Schubert Wanderer Fantasy and Schumann Faschingsschwank (Richter’s EMI alternatives strike better balances in both works); tape-hiss is generally a prominent factor. All this said, it’s an utterly compelling piano CD. Max Loppert