11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Not be be missed
, 5 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Sviatoslav Richter: The Master Pianist (Audio CD)
Admirers of Richter's unique style will need no review to tell them that this set is extraordinary value and essential listening, so I am directing this review at those who are interested in exploring one of the great pianists of the 20th century. The previous reviewer (Previn Karian) outlines lucidly Richter's qualities. A very `physical' pianist, I find something percussive in his tone, particularly in faster, louder moments, but equally the ability to sing with a warm legato line, and it tends to be in slow movements that I like him best. Richter is unquestionably a magical pianist and listening to his account of the slow movement of the Schumann concerto, to take only one example, one finds a Romantic weight and richness without the cloying sentimentality that often goes with it. Yet Richter is never cold or distant, always sympathetic to the demands of composer and piece.
The caveat is that few of these performances would be my first choice: exceptions to that are the Bartok, Prokofiev and Dvorak Concerti, and I admit I don't like his Schubert, preferring the likes of Perahia, Tirimo, Brendel and Klien. For me it is at times too brittle, though I know many feel very differently and my objections are more a matter of taste and sensibility, because Richter certainly has much to say about this music too. He was never one to take the obvious or easy route; his recording of the Berg Chamber Concerto, for example, is the only one (as far as I am aware) to include the repeats and, though, I don't believe you need them, it does add a whole other dimension to the music. I particularly enjoyed his collaborations with the violinist Oleg Kagan, in both Mozart and Beethoven, in which one gets a sense of two equals probing and examining as partners in a great adventure. It brings a freshness to the music and an excitement, as if (paradoxically) hearing the music again for the first time.
And indeed Richter is often revelatory in his view of standard repertoire. The Mozart recordings exemplify this. The set offers a performance of the Concerto in E flat (no. 22) that is individual and idiosyncratic, yet wholly convincing in its vision, and it is wonderful to hear Britten's cadenzas. Admittedly I prefer both Perahia and Uchida in this music, but Richter is inspired, refreshing one's view of what is possible. Perhaps the most surprising inclusion is the Brahms Die Schone Magalone, a song cycle in which he accompanies the great Fischer-Dieskau in a lesser known masterpiece that well deserves to be heard when treated with such affection and concentration. I say accompanies, though again one has a sense of partnership, a meeting of equals determined to winkle out the subtleties of the piece.
The set is, as another reviewer says, incomplete. The live account of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is a must and there are other performances by Richter of Beethoven sonatas and concerti that better demonstrate why many regard him as such a great Beethovenian. Nonetheless, at this price, 14 discs of recordings by such a great musician as Richter undoubtedly is an exceptional bargain and not too be missed.
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