LABELS: BBC Legends
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Sviatoslav Richter
PERFORMER: Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4090-2 ADD
Sviatoslav Richter was overrated as a Schumann-player but perhaps unsurpassed in Rachmaninoff. Twelve of the latter’s Preludes, Richter’s typically personal selection, were recorded in Manchester in 1969, and though the sound is a bit boxy and faded it only adds to the haunting quality of performances by someone as if possessed. Two, in particular, are quite marvellous – the G sharp minor from Op. 32, technically superb and expressively potent, and the less well-known A flat major from Op. 23, which
In Schumann’s Symphonic Studies, recorded at the Royal Festival Hall the previous year, the sound quality is fresher, though the piano rattles and rings like a tinker’s cart. Richter includes the five variations that Schumann rejected, grouping them together in the middle, which makes the work too long, and although he warms to the later variations, too many of the earlier ones lack poetry.
The first disc is largely given up to Haydn and Beethoven, both of whom Richter seems to have regarded – at least, in Aldeburgh and London – as cool, objective composers, with little human warmth. Purely on a technical level, the playing is immaculate, though stabbing accents and cold, thin tone seem ill-suited to Beethoven’s Eroica Variations. Adrian Jack