WORKS: Polonaise-fantaisie, Op. 61; Etudes (excerpts); Nocturnes (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PR 254 056 ADD
Is there anything Richter can’t do on the piano? These Czech Radio recordings were made at various times between 1956 and 1988 (the earlier ones in mono), and the pianism is revelatory. Few can equal him, either, in penetrating to the heart of the music. Listen to the flawless accentuation of the left-hand melody at the centre of Chopin’s E minor Etude, to the magisterial Polonaise-fantaisie with its near-Wagnerian chromaticism, to the dramatic unfolding of Scriabin’s powerful Fifth Sonata, recreated here in all its varying moods and textures – a compelling reading, gripping from the first bar to the last.
His Liszt includes a phenomenal ‘Feux follets’, and he excels in the crisp Spanish rhythms of Ravel’s ‘Alborado del gracioso’ and the atmospheric tollings of ‘La vallée des cloches’, achieved with impeccable pedalling and control of tone colour.
What a pity so much is marred by the audience’s coughing and sneezing. One particularly ill-timed cough shatters the spell of the E minor Etude’s final chord, and there’s a spot of what seems to be traffic noise behind the brief unaccompanied introductory motif of the A minor Etude, Op. 25/11. Even constantly illuminating playing like this cannot fully withstand such unwanted distractions. Wadham Sutton