Liszt, Chopin

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COMPOSERS: Chopin,Liszt
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Hungarian Fantasy
PERFORMER: Sviatoslav Richter (piano); LSO/Kiril Kondrashin
Richter’s long-awaited visit to London in 1961 brought more than his three concert appearances. He stayed on to make a number of commercial records, including the two Liszt concertos for Philips. Thus the present BBC Legends release gives us an opportunity of comparing him on a live occasion and in the studio. It also brings the Hungarian Fantasy and the Chopin Andante spianato and Grande polonaise, Op. 22. The BBC’s mono recording is really rather good, though the commercial recording, made by Mercury’s Robert and Wilma Cozart Fine in stereo for Philips, scores in terms of frequency range. Both place the soloist very much in the foreground, though the cellos and basses have greater presence and definition on the Philips, and the orchestral detail rather more transparency. The Chopin has both delicacy and panache, though Richter’s pedalling is audible.There is marginally more abandon in the first movement of the E flat Concerto in the concert performance, though both are pretty dazzling. Richter’s commercial account of the Hungarian Fantasy, made in September 1961 with János Ferencsik and the Hungarian State Orchestra, once available on Philips, is now only to be found on Music & Arts. The present account offers such high-voltage playing that I wonder whether it alone isn’t worth the price of the record. The yardstick by which new accounts of the two concertos are judged remain, for me, Richter, Brendel and Zimerman, and if you own the most recent transfer of the first, you will probably not be tempted to duplicate. However, I think I would, for its excitement and sense of occasion – and for the wizardry of the Hungarian Fantasy. Robert Layton