Sviatoslav Richter in the pianistic lineup

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Lance
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Sviatoslav Richter in the pianistic lineup

Post by Lance » Wed Mar 07, 2018 7:16 pm

This post was prompted by "Belle's" post on the Desert Island thread. Almost anyone interested in great pianists will cede that Richter was one of the greatest pianists of his period. Everyone, including other pianists (Gilels, for example) marveled at the man's genius as as a pianist. Collectors, too, want every note they can get of his playing from commercial recordings to the plethora of private recordings that have become available before- and since his passing. [Yours truly is one of them.] Richter could play just about anything by anybody. There were some works by great composers he avoided playing in public or on recordings. His memory was near infallible until his very late years when he would have music in front of him but not refer to it frequently. Whether it be solo, concerto, collaborative artist with other instrumentalists, or as an accompanist to singers, Richter was at the top of the list for almost every pianophile. Yet, in many years of listening, I have discovered that not every great pianist can play everything to leave in indelible impression on the listener. For instance, while Richter's Schubert and Schumann are considered to be among the very best interpretations, I don't always agree. Schumann, one of the most elegant, unsual and introspective pianists of the Romantic era has artists such as Clara Haskil, Rubinstein (in many cases), Kempff, Curzon, de Larrocha, Moiseiwitsch, Kuerti, Rosen, Brendel, and of late, Tanski (a Brendel pupil) place more heart and soul into Schumann (for me, generally) than many other historical- or present-day pianists. Of course, this is an opinion not everyone will obviously share. We all have our favourites and how their music-making affects us. While technically often very difficult, Schumann's music requires a different kind of thinking in its performance than does other great Romantic composers. The same applies for Schubert. For me, Serkin in the Op. Posth. sonatas, Artur Schnabel in the sonatas, Kempff, Wuhrer, Badura-Skoda, etc.
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John F
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Re: Sviatoslav Richter in the pianistic lineup

Post by John F » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:51 am

Richter's Schumann and Schubert recordings of the '50s and '60s still seem to me among the best things he did. The later recordings, not so much - the spontaneity and risk-taking of his earlier manner were going or gone.
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Re: Sviatoslav Richter in the pianistic lineup

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:14 am

John F wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:51 am
Richter's Schumann and Schubert recordings of the '50s and '60s still seem to me among the best things he did. The later recordings, not so much - the spontaneity and risk-taking of his earlier manner were going or gone.
I agree, John, that Richter peaked exactly when he started coming to the U. S., and some of his best recordings are from the 1960's. His Carnegie Hall debut was electrifying, and his live performances from that decade are more inventive than later recordings. I'm particularly fond of his live WTC Book I from Moscow in 1969, compared to his performance issued on RCA. Also his Pictures at an Exhibition from the 1960's in the Black Box set has many pianistic touches that make it a very different, more personal interpretation than the 1958 Sofia recital (issued on the Phillips label). By contrast, his later Beethoven sonatas recorded by Phillips, while excellent, lack the youthful blaze of his earlier interpretations. Also his Brahms II with Leinsdorf/Chicago remains a masterpiece I've loved since it was first issued on reel-to-reel during the 1960's.

In short, Richter was a great pianist who had his off days, which could be said of any great artist, IMHO.

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Re: Sviatoslav Richter in the pianistic lineup

Post by barney » Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:52 pm

I agree with Brian, though I don't know the later Pictures. I found the 1958 one electrifying. Also the Schumann Fantasia Op 17 perhaps tops my list of performers in that work.
Richter's interpretations would not always be among my favourites, I admit, but what they all, always, had was a blazing integrity., You always knew he was making no concessions away from his own conception, to scholarship, to audiences, to peers etc. And this attribute of integrity, of singleness of purpose, which many great artists have, is tremendously important, in my view.
I just heard Nelson Freire do the Emperor in Melbourne. Though there were many aspects I might cavil at (tempi, occasional phrasing), they didn't matter because he had this same integrity and unity. For me, it's a sine qua non of greatness.

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Re: Sviatoslav Richter in the pianistic lineup

Post by RebLem » Sun Mar 11, 2018 9:30 pm

One of the things consensus opinion says Richter was best at was the Prokofiev Piano Concerto 1. It is a very good one, but one I like even better is a recording Karel Ancerl & the Czech Phil. made with Ivan Moravec. I have it on Praga PR 254 004. It times out at 14'33, and the other works on the CD are The Scythian Suite (20'18), the Classical Symphony (13'17), and "Seven, They Are" (8'21). The PC was recorded 11 NOV 1962 in Prague.
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