Richter on Richter, and others...

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Belle
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Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Belle » Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:05 pm

From "The Spectator" - and I completely agree about Pollini's playing!!

Remembering one of the best – and bitchiest – pianists who ever lived. Sviatoslav Richter took notes on almost every piece of live and recorded music he heard – but only one pianist is routinely trashed
Damian Thompson


3 March 2018

I’m unlucky with Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata. Twice in the past year I’ve bolted for the exit as soon the pianist crossed the finishing line.

The first performance was phoned in to the Royal Festival Hall by a washed-out Maurizio Pollini. The second was musical chloroform, so dreary that it would be cruel to name the perpetrator. Cruel but fair, since I paid 30 quid for the ticket: Piers Lane. Fortunately he’d programmed it before the interval. By the time he’d moved on to Chopin I was back home listening to an Appassionata from another planet — simultaneously thoughtful and daring, the finale taken at such a perilous speed that it’s a miracle it didn’t come off the rails.

The venue was Carnegie Hall, the year 1960. Music buffs will guess that the pianist was the young but already legendary Sviatoslav Richter. American audiences couldn’t believe their ears. Richter’s touch combined feather and steel; however fast he played, he was chiefly interested in revealing the deep foundations of the music — or, depending on your point of view, imposing his own peculiar structure on it. He created moods that critics struggled to capture: a Google search of reviews yields ‘manic nonchalance’ and ‘restless despair’. That sounds very Russian, but Richter was never a Soviet pianist in the mould of his great contemporary Emil Gilels, whose double octaves sound as if they were intended to boost morale in a tractor factory.

Richter’s only true rival was Vladimir Horowitz. On the face of it, the two had nothing in common — apart from concealing their homosexuality, something that came more naturally to the frowning mystic than to the bow-tied schmaltz merchant. It’s hard to imagine Horowitz breaking a finger in a brawl with a sailor at a railway station, as Richter did in 1952. But both men had a command of colour that matched their fingerwork — and was sometimes undermined by risk-taking. Their transcendental but unreliable techniques kept audiences on the edge of their seats, and not always for the right reason. For example, that frenzied coda of Richter’s Carnegie Hall Appassionata is marred by a horribly intrusive wrong note. There are other Richter recordings of the same piece in better sound — but they aren’t nearly as electrifying, so you just have to put up with it.

Alternatively, you may decide that Richter is just too perverse and opt for someone safer. Murray Perahia, for example, though even this most tasteful of artists can go to pieces on the platform. After a concert in Moscow in the 1980s, one critic wrote: ‘What happened? A terrible attack of nerves? This famous pianist played virtually everything badly and his Chopin left me cold.’

The critic was Sviatoslav Richter, who took notes on almost every piece of live and recorded music he heard from 1970 to 1995, including radio broadcasts on car journeys. They weren’t private, because at the end of his life he handed them over to Bruno Monsaingeon for a book accompanying his famous Richter documentary. To my shame, I’ve only just discovered them. In his introduction, Monsaingeon says he ‘felt obliged to leave out entries that might be considered ad hominem attacks on living people’. They’ll make interesting reading one day, judging by what he left in.

Here’s Richter on Pollini: ‘Chopin cast in metal’ and ‘lacking in any kind of charm, dressed up in the latest fashion as though on purpose.’ On Radu Lupu: ‘Everything is so carefully calculated and weighed up in advance that there’s nothing unexpected or surprising.’ Vladimir Ashkenazy: ‘Expression = zero. Nothing happens.’ (There’s also a comment about Jessye Norman’s physique that I’ll pass over because she’s been known to sue at the slightest mention of it.)

On the whole, however, there’s more mischief than rancour in these notebooks. Richter adores Andrei Gavrilov’s playing despite its carelessness, and relishes his vanity: ‘Each time he takes someone in his luxury car he inflicts his own recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto on them (excellent though it is).’ He is thrilled by Zoltan Kocsis — awful to think he’s no longer with us — and he says something very prescient about Evgeny Kissin: ‘He never throws himself headlong into the sea. Perhaps he’ll never do so.’

Only one pianist is routinely trashed: ‘shameful blemishes… a catastrophe… better if this had never seen the light of day’, and so on. Richter is writing about himself. And some of his criticisms are valid: trying to catch the maestro at his best is as frustrating now, when we have only his recordings, as it was when he was alive. Still, there is no one of comparable stature playing today. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that I could have heard him in the flesh but — stumbling in and out of pubs in a spirit of manic nonchalance — just couldn’t be bothered.

barney
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by barney » Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:35 pm

Fascinating, Sue. I'd really love to know what he said about Norman that made her reach for a writ but - unsurprisingly - a cursory Google search is not revelatory.
I have some 50 accounts of the Appassionata, and I am delighted to see they include the Richter 1960 Carnegie Hall. Guess what will be in my CD player today!

Rach3
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Rach3 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:46 pm

Thanks, Belle !!

Another " Appassionata" to hear, IMHO ( mine the Arbiter cd ) is Samuil Feinberg's dark, menacing,Dante-esque reading, despite the 30's sound :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OF6NVcOwrME
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq2QR2HCt4o

Belle
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Belle » Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:48 pm

Excellent, Rach3!! Just listened to the Feinberg and it is precisely as you define it. I absolutely adore - adore, I say - that second movement of the "Appassionata". My sister recently commented to me "your music has taken you to places few people are lucky enough to go" (and she wasn't speaking about geography).

I loved the description in "The Spectator" article about Richter as "feather and steel"!!
Last edited by Belle on Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Holden Fourth
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Holden Fourth » Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:13 pm

There is an Appassionata that rivals the Richter version (I prefer his Moscow recording over the Carnegie Hall) and that is Gilels, in a live performance from January 1961. It is nothing like his DG version in the nearly complete LvB PS. This is fiery, impassioned and also takes the speed right to the edge of disaster. Brilliant Classics has this recording but it can also be heard on YT and Spotify.

Belle
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Belle » Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:30 pm

I have a performance of this work from Gilels, but I don't think it's the one to which you refer.

The second movement - Andante con moto - has as the principal theme essentially a chorale, followed by variations. It's the granitic serenity - if I can put it that way - which is intoxicating. As well as the 'air' surrounding these chords. Some performances I've seen of this work, on U-Tube et al, show modern pianists lifting their hands between the phrases of the chorale. For me, this opening section of the movement suggests hands only barely lifted from the keyboard in a grave, non-melodic, almost trance-like movement of religious solemnity. Almost like continuous tones. Ergo, the sections A://, B://.

John F
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by John F » Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:43 pm

barney wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:35 pm
.
I have some 50 accounts of the Appassionata, and I am delighted to see they include the Richter 1960 Carnegie Hall. Guess what will be in my CD player today!
Reading Richter's critiques of other pianists, I wondered if he ever heard Rudolf Serkin in his prime. Nobody talks about Serkin today, it seems, but he had a formidable technique and, of course, he was a fine musician. He recorded the Appassionata in the 1930s and while not as flamboyant as the Russians - who is? - it's exciting and nearly as fast as Richter's.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_VQNDB-PeY

Richter's Moscow studio recording of the sonata arrived in American record stores before his tour, and that together with the Sofia "Pictures at an Exhibition" had us all stoked for his Boston debut, playing Beethoven 1 and Brahms 2 with the BSO under Munch. About a month later (I've lost the program) he returned for a recital, the first half Beethoven culminating in the Appassionata which he played just the same as on the record, and the second half ending with Prokofiev's 6th sonata. I'd never heard that music and in Richter's performance, which I've never heard equaled by any other pianist, it put even his Appassionata in the shade. Those were the days.
John Francis

Rach3
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Rach3 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:54 pm

John F wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:43 pm
Reading Richter's critiques of other pianists, I wondered if he ever heard Rudolf Serkin in his prime.

For me, Serkin's 50's recording with Ormandy/PO on Columbia lp of the Schumann PC remains the reference for that work. He also recorded the Prokofieff 4th Concerto,Reger Concerto, and Chopin Preludes !

You may wish to consider the " Richter Rediscovered" 2-cd set of Richter's 1960 NYC recitals, which has an amazing Prokofieff 6th Sonata : http://tinyurl.com/yahsbhy7

In the Monsaingeon "Notebooks", Richter notes a 1972 (?)recording of a Mozart Piano Quintet,K.452, by the Philadelphia Wind Ensemble and Serkin , and says : " The Quintet is sheer beauty as performed by these American musicians: an impeccable performance, full of life and authentically Mozartian."

John F
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by John F » Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:36 am

I got many of those recordings when Columbia briefly published them on LP in the '60s, then withdrew them when Richter objected publicly. He thought he played badly; I disagree.

Beginning in the '70s, Richter's playing became less exciting. I was traveling for my company in the midwest when he played a recital at Indiana University during his last American tour; he looked unwell, as if he had a cold, and the only part of the program that woke me up was Szymanowski's "Mythes," which I was hearing for the first time. With Richter it's the later the lesser, at least for me.
John Francis

Rach3
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Rach3 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:29 am

John F wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:36 am
With Richter it's the later the lesser, at least for me.
Agreed,although the Decca recording he did, I believe live in Italy in 1986,Richter 71,of the Brahms 1st and 2nd Piano Sonatas is a must, my reference performances of those Sonatas:

https://tinyurl.com/y8zyphac

maestrob
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by maestrob » Thu Nov 08, 2018 12:16 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:29 am
John F wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:36 am
With Richter it's the later the lesser, at least for me.
Agreed,although the Decca recording he did, I believe live in Italy in 1986,Richter 71,of the Brahms 1st and 2nd Piano Sonatas is a must, my reference performances of those Sonatas:

https://tinyurl.com/y8zyphac
Agreed. Richter's late Beethoven, recorded IIRC in the Concertgebouw by Phillips, while good, can't hold a candle to his NY recitals in the 1960's, all of which have finally been released on CD. The young Richter had an intense electricity running through his veins. I, too, am impressed by his Decca recording of the early Brahms Sonatas: it remains a benchmark. Horowitz, by contrast, had dropped out of concertizing and didn't return to Carnegie Hall until 1966. As a teenager, when Columbia released his complete recital on LP, I was astonished by his playing, and thereafter pegged Horowitz and Richter as my two favorite great pianists for many years.

Thanks, Belle, for bringing this up!

Rach3
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Rach3 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:52 pm

Belle wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:48 pm
Excellent, Rach3!! Just listened to the Feinberg and it is precisely as you define it.
Feinberg does not "pretty up " the second mov., but rather continues the darkness.

Regardless of my blabbering, glad you enjoyed. FWW,Feinberg's own Piano Sonatas are amazing.I have the 2 BIS cd's. Also on YouTube I believe.

Enjoy your Summer ( and free of Trump ) as we enter Winter here in more ways than one, with another mass shooting today Australia ( much smarter than we ) has avoided.

Belle
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Belle » Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:18 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:52 pm
Belle wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:48 pm
Excellent, Rach3!! Just listened to the Feinberg and it is precisely as you define it.
Feinberg does not "pretty up " the second mov., but rather continues the darkness.

Regardless of my blabbering, glad you enjoyed. FWW,Feinberg's own Piano Sonatas are amazing.I have the 2 BIS cd's. Also on YouTube I believe.

Enjoy your Summer ( and free of Trump ) as we enter Winter here in more ways than one, with another mass shooting today Australia ( much smarter than we ) has avoided.
I'm glad to have been introduced to the Feinberg; thank you for that! And your good wishes about our weather, which has already been astonishingly hot. We were all very sorry to learn about the mass shooting in the last day or so in your beloved country.

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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Lance » Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:23 pm

I've never been a great fan of Pollini though I have many of his recordings. In a word, I can only describe his playing as being somewhat "cold." I hear that word often in connection with his playing on- or off records. Insofar as his dress code is concerned, that seems irrelevant. I don't agree with Richter regarding his assessment of Vladimir Ashkenazy. His Rachmaninoff performances are extraordinary, as is his early Chopin complete Etudes, Opp. 10/25 (especially in the early Russian recording). Also, I have found Ashkenazy's playing of Schumann to be more exceptional that I expected [Decca 470.915, 7 CDs].

Naturally, everyone is entitled to their opinions, especially someone like Richter who pretty much playing almost everything and has established himself as one the preeminent pianists of the 20th century.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
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Rach3
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Rach3 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 5:40 pm

Lance wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:23 pm
I've never been a great fan of Pollini though I have many of his recordings.
IMHO, his Bartok PCs # 1 and # 2 with the CSO under Abbado , originally on DGG lp, are reference performances.

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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Lance » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:22 pm

I was never particularly drawn to these concertos, but I love the way the Hungarians perform them: Geza Anda, pianist, and Ferenc Fricsay, conductor on DGG. Also another set of Hungarians: Zoltán Kocsis, piano, and Iván Fischer, conductor on Decca. The third concerto has probably seen the most recordings of the three. Still another great performance of the third with the Hungarians, Annie Fischer, piano, Ferenc Fricsay, conductor on Praga. She also recorded it for EMI with Igor Markevitch, conductor. Isn't it wonderful to have such an array of great artists?!?
Rach3 wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 5:40 pm
Lance wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:23 pm
I've never been a great fan of Pollini though I have many of his recordings.
IMHO, his Bartok PCs # 1 and # 2 with the CSO under Abbado , originally on DGG lp, are reference performances.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Rach3
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Rach3 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:58 am

Lance wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:22 pm
Isn't it wonderful to have such an array of great artists?!?
Indeed. Here is a wonderful live video of an 80's ( I think) performance of Bartok's 3rd PC by Andras Schiff and the Birmingham Symphony under Rattle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-5B6nz ... A5313877D8

My recording of # 3 is an old one by Gyorgy Sandor and Jascha Hohrenstein.

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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by John F » Fri Nov 09, 2018 1:03 pm

Lance wrote:I was never particularly drawn to these concertos, but I love the way the Hungarians perform them: Geza Anda, pianist, and Ferenc Fricsay, conductor on DGG.
Those are the recordings to have if you're having only one. Fricsay's Bartok was special, with a warmth lacking in other good Bartok conductors like Reiner and Dorati. His orchestra, formerly the RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) Symphony and then the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, was not first-rate, but they played well for him and DG recorded just about all of his Bartok repertoire.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Belle » Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:54 pm

I have to agree, for the most, with Lance's comments about the Bartok piano concertos. I think they are rather eclectic and don't really reveal that composer at his best. The opening movement (Allegretto) of the Third Concerto (easily the best of these works) is quite charming, as is the Adagio (even here there are strong resonances of Rachmaninov), but when Bartok becomes percussive and fast these works become less so. From 17:40 here (third movement) the concerto seems to wander and its second subject reminds me of Litolff!! It becomes significantly consonant and incompatible with the over-arching, somewhat broad, dissonant aesthetic Bartok seems to have created for the rest of it!! A curious mixture of lush romanticism and Prokofiev-style angularity: I have a mental image of the composer placing his finger at his temple and asking, "this.....or that?" And, at times, I also hear Saint-Saëns!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7J7L53b8U0

When listening to the Bartok piano concertos I have many times wondered whether this genre was and is, in fact, entirely effete.

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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by maestrob » Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:21 am

Lance wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:23 pm
I've never been a great fan of Pollini though I have many of his recordings. In a word, I can only describe his playing as being somewhat "cold." I hear that word often in connection with his playing on- or off records. Insofar as his dress code is concerned, that seems irrelevant. I don't agree with Richter regarding his assessment of Vladimir Ashkenazy. His Rachmaninoff performances are extraordinary, as is his early Chopin complete Etudes, Opp. 10/25 (especially in the early Russian recording). Also, I have found Ashkenazy's playing of Schumann to be more exceptional that I expected [Decca 470.915, 7 CDs].

Naturally, everyone is entitled to their opinions, especially someone like Richter who pretty much playing almost everything and has established himself as one the preeminent pianists of the 20th century.
Agree with you, Lance, about Ashkenazy's Rachmaninoff, and with Richter about the rest of Ashkenazy's output. As for Bartok, I have and enjoy both Geza Anda (DGG) and Kocsis (Philips), though I find Fischer's orchestra in much better shape than Anda's. I've also owned and enjoyed Anda's complete Mozart Concerti (conducted from the keyboard) on DGG. They are full of life, energy and sparkle, and never have never bored me since their LP issue in the 1970's.

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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Lance » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:26 am

If you are a Sandor fan, be sure to check out his complete Bartok solo piano music recorded for Vox in 1963 in New York City [3610]. As for Horenstein, I collect his recordings with very great interest.
Rach3 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:58 am
My recording of # 3 is an old one by Gyorgy Sandor and Jascha Hohrenstein.
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Lance » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:29 am

Indeed, those Richter performances of the Brahms first- and second sonatas are outstanding. And hard as it may be to believe, my most favourite recording of the Brahms first sonata was with Walter Klien for the Vox label. Have you ever heard it?
Rach3 wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:29 am
John F wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:36 am
With Richter it's the later the lesser, at least for me.
Agreed,although the Decca recording he did, I believe live in Italy in 1986,Richter 71,of the Brahms 1st and 2nd Piano Sonatas is a must, my reference performances of those Sonatas:

https://tinyurl.com/y8zyphac
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

Lance
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Lance » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:38 am

I disagree, too!
John F wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:36 am
I got many of those recordings when Columbia briefly published them on LP in the '60s, then withdrew them when Richter objected publicly. He thought he played badly; I disagree.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

Lance
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Re: Richter on Richter, and others...

Post by Lance » Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:07 am

Quite agree about the Geza Anda complete DGG Mozart concertos. I have them on CD; however, Anda recorded many Mozart concertos for other labels, some live performances, with conductors such as Paumgartner, Keilberth, Jochum, Bour, Boulez, Silvestri, and several others with Anda conducting, outside the DGG complete recordings. Very nice to make comparisons of the pianist's work this way!
maestrob wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:21 am
I've also owned and enjoyed Anda's complete Mozart Concerti (conducted from the keyboard) on DGG. They are full of life, energy and sparkle, and never have never bored me since their LP issue in the 1970's.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

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