Brahms: Sviatoslav Richter in Prague: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C; Piano Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor; Variations on a Hungarian Song

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Praga
WORKS: Sviatoslav Richter in Prague: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C; Piano Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor; Variations on a Hungarian Song
PERFORMER: Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PR 254 059 ADD mono
The latest in the mounting series of live performances given by Richter for Czech Radio, this disc contains broadcasts dating from 1984 and 1988. The Sonatas (No. 2 was written first) were completed when Brahms was scarcely out of his teens, but they demand a virtuoso technique and an assured feel for musical architecture. Richter makes the most of their symphonic qualities and fully appreciates what Denis Matthews once described as ‘the tussle between heart and head’. He is, of course, quite unfazed by their prodigious technical difficulties – the teeming double octaves which launch No. 2, and the opening of No. 1, with its debt to Beethoven’s Hammerklavier.

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The playing and the interpretation are magisterial, and there is little of the intrusive audience coughing which has marred other discs in the series. My star ratings reflect the performance and the sound quality produced by the engineers; but if this is one of Richter’s own instruments, which he takes on tour with him, it seems to have suffered on the trip. It’s tinny at the top, boomy in the bass, and the long-held notes die early. Wadham Sutton