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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos 3 & 29/Bagatelles, Op.126 [Original recording remastered]

Sviatoslav Richter Audio CD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (1 Oct 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: BBC Music Legends/IMG Artists
  • ASIN: B00004Y6OG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,802 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Allegro Con Brio
2. Adagio
3. Scherzo. Allegro-Trio
4. Allegro Assai
5. Andante Con Moto. Cantablie E Compiacevole
6. Presto
7. Presto- Andante Amabile E Con Moto
8. Allegro
9. Scherzo. Assai Vivace
10. Adagio Sostenuto. Appassionato E Con Molto Sentimento
11. Largo- Allegro Risoluto

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FIVE STARS PERFORMANCE, NO DOUBT 3 April 2012
Format:Audio CD
Richter only played the Hammerklavier three times, all of them in the same year. These three performances have been kept in record and this one is the best recording. The Piano Sonata No. 29 is a frightening piece and his adagio is played slowly and with deep elegance by Richter. His reading of this third movement lasts more than usual readings. This is a sonata that demands a mix of technique and intelectual play. Richter was superb in both grounds. His reading also has the power to move you, to reach you. Hammerklavier was a Sonata writen for posterity and pianists such as Richter truly show us all its power. The BBC Legends Collection offers seminal recordings and this is one of them. About the Sonata 29 there are many famous readings. I will always cry because Horowitz did not try it. I treasure the three recordings by Richter, the Solomon reading, the curious Gould studio recording, Schnabel of course and, most recently recorded, the performances of Uchida and Lewis. Brendel remains seminal to me and Richter will always be a reference to compare all of these names and whatever you want to add. This Russian pianist is a watershed in the history of piano. This record is quintessential not just for completists and fans of Richter, but also for any classical music collector or performer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but unmissable Hammerklavier 15 Aug 2014
By enthusiast TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Richter didn't play all of the Beethoven sonatas - only the ones that he felt close to - and I seem to have accumulated quite a number of his performances in each of the sonatas that he did play. As far as I know, though, this is his only recording of the Hammerklavier that is available to us. It takes time to get going. The first movement, Allegro, sounds strangely pedestrian and the Scherzo also seems to lack inspiration. But then, in the long Adagio Sostenuto, Richter gives us something truly special. He draws out the lines sublimely and engages us almost hypnotically. This is magic and few accounts that I have heard can equal it. The final movement is at a similar level of inspiration. The fugal lines are crystal clear and yet deeply resonant (emotionally). So a flawed Hammerklavier but an unmissable one for all that.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EASY TO LIKE, HARDER TO RATE 5 Oct 2001
By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
That sums up Richter for me. He was a bit of a chameleon -- super-virtuoso, introvert, and the relaxed spontaneous music-maker that we have here. Relaxed and spontaneous in the Hammerklavier -- what's that? It's big-scale, serious Beethoven playing, but with a prevailing sense that the player enjoys sharing his love of even this towering, glowering masterpiece with a group of enthusiasts.
This is a live recital from Blythburgh church near Southwold, by all accounts the sort of performing environment Richter liked best. The acoustic is adequate, the affection obvious from the applause. Richter is not concerned to display his prodigious technique, and the sprinkling of fluffed notes is downright endearing.
What are you looking for in the big early sonata in C op 2 # 3? I am not looking for frigid, marbly perfection as offered by Gilels -- a deeply
unattractive reading. If you must have perfection, Michelangeli has it on tap. He inspires awe rather than affection, sure, but his live performance from Arezzo in 1952 (very much a Monument of Great Pianism) is still one I treasure
I treasure Richter's performance too. This is not visionary Beethoven and Richter's big-scale but humane and effortless playing will suit me in most moods, I expect. The Bagatelles op 126 (Richter gives 3 of them) really call for special insight into Beethoven, and here I think we have reached one of Richter's limits, which is not to say that the performances are anything other than idiomatic and enjoyable.
I'm sure his Hammerklavier will please many. It pleases me, but it never takes me out of my comfort-zone, and there's the problem. Of all Beethoven's compositions, this one belongs least in anyone's comfort-zone.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excitement galore 6 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Richter may not have the finesse of other pianists such as Brendel but he makes every note sound like a matter of life or death. Despite mistakes in the first bars this is one of the most exciting renditions of the "Hammerklavier that I have ever heard. He also carries off the Bagatelles with just the right, light tone. The sound is not fantastic but, with this sort of playing it does not seem to matter too much.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stupendous Hammerklavier 20 May 2005
By Jeffrey Lipscomb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This live 1975 Beethoven recital contains Richter accounts of the early Sonata #3, the Bagatelles Opus 126 (just #1, 4 & 6) and, the star attraction, the "Hammerklavier" (Sonata #29). This program competes directly with Richter's live Prague accounts of the same works (in a deleted 15-disc Praga CD set). Here are some impressions based on listening to both performances, plus those by a few other pianists.

The Sonata #3 for BBC, to my taste, is played with a percussive severity that borders on excessive. The Prague is just a shade gentler and more to my liking (both are superb). The latter is played with the first mvt. repeat, whereas the BBC omits it. Richter was a zealot when it came to repeats, and I suspect that BBC has simply excised the repeat here to squeeze the program (which runs 77:45 as is) on to a single CD. Frankly, I feel that's a highly questionable aesthetic decision (IMG did a similar editing job on a Beethoven symphony in their volume dedicated to Furtwangler). My other favorite performances of this work are Wilhelm Kempff's small-scale pointillistic account (mono DG), the Claudio Arrau on Philips LP (particularly for the intense depth of his slow mvt.), Artur Schnabel (mine's on a Dante CD set - it is similar in its bold projection to Richter's), and the Yves Nat on EMI (an under-rated complete set in mono that has an amazing variety of subtlety and nuance).

Richter's BBC & Praga accounts of 3 Bagatelles from Op. 126 are pretty similar - all in all, I find a little more interpretive fire in the Praga. Both are among my all-time favorite readings, though I don't feel that Richter or anyone else quite matches the rich wisdom and total coherence of Schnabel's aged mono account of all six.

That brings us to the Hammerklavier, the most fiendishly-difficult Sonata to interpret ever written by Beethoven (or anyone else, for that matter). The composer's original metronome markings in the outer movements are incredibly fast, while the extraordinary Adagio - of almost Brucknerian dimensions - requires an enormous reservoir of deeply-felt emotion. I suspect that the "perfect" Hammerklavier has never been recorded and probably never will. The first of those to try plunging head-long into it at the specified fast tempo was Schnabel, and he misses almost as many notes as he hits. Two accounts that achieved rapid tempo success where Schnabel failed are both on out of print LPs: Beveridge Webster (Dover) and Charles Rosen (Epic), while Rudolph Serkin came close (Sony). But all three turned in fast and rather chilly readings of the Adagio, which Schnabel did sublimely (as did Kempff in his mono DG set). Solomon Cuttner (mine's on Odeon LP) was sure-fingered throughout his reading, but somehow his interpretation strikes me as just a little too smooth and sophisticated (others feel very differently).

So where does that leave this Richter account, performed just a week after the live one in Prague? Together, they represent the most stupendous LIVE performances in my experience. Both times, Richter adopts a moderate tempo in the first mvt., his 2nd mvt. is alive with rhythmic flexibility, and the final mvt. is almost over-powering in its torrential virtuosity. But there are differences, too. In the Prague, things come almost un-glued for just a second or two (around 8:20 into it), while no such mishap occurs in Aldeburgh. The shortcoming to both Richters for me is the slow mvt., which lacks slightly the tear-choked quality of Schnabel (the Praga comes perhaps a little closer than the BBC). And the recorded sound is quite different in Richter's two versions: BBC is more distant and slightly more clangorous, while the Prague is more close-up and personal (I prefer the latter's sound over-all).

Both of these extraordinary performances of the most challenging sonata ever written are ESSENTIAL listening. In my own personal pantheon, they join the Schnabel (Adagio only), the mono Kempff (perhaps the best Adagio after Schnabel's), the iconoclastic and hugely-dimensioned Ernst Levy (Marston), and the more intimate and smaller-scale Yves Nat. I'm sure there are other great accounts out there, but you can't go wrong with any of these.

Highly recommended.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another important release! 21 Nov 2000
By G. Dillard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
BBC Legends continues to open wide a treasure-chest of some of classical music's greatest recordings! This release is among the best. The sound quality allows you to hear just how amazing Richter's playing really is! The "Hammerklavier" has appeared on several overseas labels, but we get a "bargain" here with other selections from this outstanding Beetoven recital given in a Church. Check out Beetoven's 2nd sonata! It was one of Michaelangeli's favorite recital pices, but even his mercurial playing of the work does not surpass Richter's amazing performance! Also included are a set of beatifully performed "Bagtelles" and one of the greatest interpretations of the "Hammerklavier" ever performed or recorded! The CD is a "must-have" for any Richter fan as well as any fan of classical music for the piano! ENJOY!
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WHEN ICONS COLLIDE 20 Oct 2001
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I like and admire Richter hugely. This is a live recital from Blythburgh church in Suffolk, and the sense of human warmth that pervades it is something for the heart -- whatever my head tells me about his Hammerklavier.
Richter's account of the sonata op 2#3 is not as polished as from Gilels or Michelangeli, but I can frankly live without the icy detachment of Gilels in this piece, though not without the above-it-all imperiousness of Michelangeli or the effortless spontaneity of Richter. I'm not sure he is perfectly attuned to the moody and volatile Beethoven of the Bagatelles, but he gets near enough for me to enjoy them.
Which leaves the Hammerklavier. To start with the best, the last movement is splendid -- big, rough and commanding. I like his unusually low-voltage scherzo too, except that the dog-shaking-itself tremolo following the trio doesn't seem to mean much to him. Most of the first movement is fine also. He has the sheer size for it. He does not bring the roof down with the opening chords as Serkin does. I wish he had, but then again Serkin was unique, and maybe Richter was wiser to leave that particular effect to him. What bothers me more is that there is so little 'expressive' music in this movement that I wish Richter had made more of it. The 'arching' theme starting with the rising octave followed by a falling arpeggio is a bit businesslike, and, more seriously, in the heavenly running duet between the hands he misses the significance of the left-hand part altogether. Just listen to Serkin play both these sequences to hear what I mean.
The Adagio is a real interpretative crux. I learned decades ago to admire Solomon here -- quiet, rapt and very slow. Richter is in the same mould, so I, like many, was disconcerted by Serkin with his faster tempo, stronger tone-contrasts, more sparing use of pianissimo and absence of pedal in the wonderful florid transition-theme. Whether Serkin or anyone else has said the last word about this strange fathomless movement I doubt, but a closer look at the score suggests two things to me
-- even where the player has the iconic stature of Richter, he will not plumb the genuine depths of the more iconic Beethoven by playing pianissimo where it is not marked or by equating 'una corda' with it
-- it is up to Beethoven to decide whether an almost-but-not-quite-slow-waltz is an appropriate accompaniment to to the marvellous transition-theme, not up to the player to obliterate the effect with pedal. B. went to great pains to indicate that these chords are to be played short. And while a dead-slow tempo at the start may give an air of spirituality, to follow it with a jolting gear-change at the transition, as Richter and Solomon do, makes me think it was too slow to start with.
There's an interesting textual point at the reprise of the first movement main theme. The note that leads back the theme is played by Richter and everyone else I can recall -- except one --as A sharp. Beethoven actually wrote A natural, though frankly I prefer A sharp. Guess who the one is who plays what Beethoven wrote.
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but unmissable Hammerklavier 15 Aug 2014
By enthusiast - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Richter didn't play all of the Beethoven sonatas - only the ones that he felt close to - and I seem to have accumulated quite a number of his performances in each of the sonatas that he did play. As far as I know, though, this is his only recording of the Hammerklavier that is available to us. It takes time to get going. The first movement, Allegro, sounds strangely pedestrian and the Scherzo also seems to lack inspiration. But then, in the long Adagio Sostenuto, Richter gives us something truly special. He draws out the lines sublimely and engages us almost hypnotically. This is magic and few accounts that I have heard can equal it. The final movement is at a similar level of inspiration. The fugal lines are crystal clear and yet deeply resonant (emotionally). So a flawed Hammerklavier but an unmissable one for all that.
7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant but... 23 July 2005
By peer gynt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The legend of Richter delivers powerhouse performances of Beethoven's op. 2 no.3, op. 106 and op. 126 (selection).

I bought this cd for the Hammerklavier and initially was not disappointed.

Upon further listening I discovered that Richter hits nearly has many duff notes in the opening movement as Schnabel does (both were more or less 'live' recordings given the lack of splicing and playback facilities available to Schnabel) yet no one ever seems to criticise Richter for this. How unlike Schnabel.

I have recordings of the Hammerklavier by Serkin, Schnabel and Brendel (1990s) and I am afraid this Richter performance comes in 4th.

The playing is monumental and breathtaking at times but my attention wanders. The interpretation is not compelling for me in the way that Brendel's and Schnabel's are, indeed for me Schnabel's performance is utterly compelling from first note to last.

Despite these reservations, this is a great, and pwoerful performance. Wrong notes do not annoy me the way they do some, but what annoys me is the concentration by some critics on Schnabel's shortcomings, as if other great pianists (i.e. Richter) cannot fluff things occasionally. Don't get me wrong, Richter is an astonishing artist who regularly amazes me in what he does.

The op 2 No 3 seems to have been a Richter favourite and this performance is more satisfying than that issued on the Historic Russian Archives box set. As for the Bagatelles, I am blown away by the ferocity and speed of the presto movement; Richter is really going for it and it leaves one exhausted.

In sum, this cd is highly recommended, but if you are looking for the ultimate Hammerklavier (if such a thing exists) go elsewhere. If you are looking for power, go for this, but expect your mind to wander. For an experience of total concentration and sheer interest, Schnabel cannot be equalled, though Brendel's most recent recording runs it a close second.
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