Chopin, Scriabin

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COMPOSERS: Chopin,Scriabin
LABELS: Live Classics
WORKS: Polonaise in C sharp minor, Op. 26/1; Polonaise A, Op. 40/1; Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40/2; Polonaise-fantaisie in A flat, Op. 61
PERFORMER: Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
These two concerts were given in Germany in 1992, at the time when Richter used to play virtually in the dark, with just a desk-lamp focusing on the music in front of him. Perhaps the austere surroundings rubbed off on his performance of Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse, which is a touch lugubrious; but both concerts find Richter on fine form, and for once the recorded sound does him justice. His characteristically expansive view of Haydn’s A flat Sonata takes in every single repeat, and as a result you get to hear the whole thing twice over. In the case of the slow movement this is surely too much of a good thing, for all the music’s remarkable beauty – not least because Haydn clearly expected the player to provide a cadenza near the close (Richter actually declines to do so). Still, with magisterial playing like this, who are we to complain? Even more impressive is the Chopin/Scriabin recital, played with all the warmth and variety of colour Richter had at his disposal. There is some overlap of repertoire between the two concerts, with Chopin’s Polonaise-fantaisie and Scriabin’s Poème-nocturne appearing on each, but that shouldn’t put you off acquiring both these essential discs. Misha Donat