Sviatoslav Richter: the Complete Album Collection (Sony Classical 88843014702, 18 cds) – views, comments

ethereal, virtuosic, sometimes a bull in a China shop, sometimes a mystic dreamer, sometimes a bricky in a hurry … but always operating on an elevated level, or almost always …

19 thoughts on “Sviatoslav Richter: the Complete Album Collection (Sony Classical 88843014702, 18 cds) – views, comments

    1. That Carnegie Hall concertos from 1960-5 are the real gems, off-stage noises and all. I’ve never heard a more probing, or broader account of the second movement of Beethoven’s Op. 14/1. Or more riveting Rachmaninov Preludes – right up there with Rachmaninov himself and Horowitz.


      1. Hi Rob – I didn’t know this had been released yet. I wrote the notes, and had lots of fun going back to my extensive research on the 1960 Columbia Carnegie Hall recordings, and my mid-1990s interviews with Schuyler Chapin and other former Columbia Masterworks staff. I can’t agree about Op. 14 No. 1’s second movement, where Richter’s perversely slow tempo I find is not just wrong but out of proportion in relation to the other movements. On the other hand, Richter’s liberal tempo manipulations and freewheeling approach to the Appassionata befits the music better, and no matter how extreme Richter gets, somehow he never lapses into vulgarity. His RCA studio version is still a reference in many respects.


  1. I guess I just wasn’t expecting that tempo Jed and have always ‘felt’ the music that way. But yes, I suppose it is ‘out of proportion’, as you say. I I’ve a feeling that from time to time I’ll be very naughty and return to the movement simply on it’s own terms. Tops for me, so far, aside from Prokofiev 6, is the Rachmaninov Preludes sequence, though the sheer intensity of the playing can, given the wrong mood, seem relentless. I was thinking how little Richter is prone to any sort of decoration. It’s a case of, ‘I’ll do the basic building, and leave others to decorate,’ throwing bricks and mortar together at a lightning rate so that what you have is a sudden towering edifice – which is why adornment (ie, applied rubato, dynamic colouring, varieties of nuance etc) seems so irrelevant when you’re listening to him. With Richter it’s a case of either withdrawing to somewhere deep within himself or lashing out, wild-eyed, sabre in hand and damn what the effect is! Just random impressions.


    1. Rubato, dynamic coloring, nuance – plenty of those in the 59/60 Richter Appassionatas! And also if you compare his October 1960 Chopin 4th Scherzo to December’s versions. In October it’s relatively straight. By December he’s started fooling around, speeding up and slowing down and getting a little antsy. The thing is that you can’t generalise about Richter – he can be stone cold sober and boring, stone cold sober and less boring, overly aggressive or strangely soft-edged. And this goes for all of his periods. That’s probably why certain piano mavens obsess over him, and why I’ve always regarded Richter as the pianistic version of The Grateful Dead.


  2. Saint Russell

    The photo of this set originally displayed at Amazon UK showed “21 CD” on the spine. Was it originally to have included the Well-Tempered Clavier?


      1. neiltingley

        There are 2 cycles of the WTC. The one made in the bathroom of a castle in Austria, and a Russian one that was issued on some label I forget now….


  3. neiltingley

    … Russian Revelation label. The sound a lot less trying and I think the performances are pretty good: matter of fact and direct. The complete opposite of GG.


  4. I’ve had that French RCA lp set for years. Also, Reiner’s Bach Suites, coincidentally just reissued too, by Pristine (some movements super fast, others super slow!). Been enjoying Sony’s Rosen set – the mono Ravel disc, especially. I don’t think I’ve ever responded more enthusiastically to Gaspard: Rosen really lays it on the line with ‘Scarbo’!


    1. I’m very curious to hear this set, which I would have liked to have annotated, since I did an extensive interview with Rosen in his NY apartment in 1997 that was absolutely fascinating, and he even played for me, which was quite unforgettable! Although I’m only familiar with some of these recordings, I have great fondness for his Art of Fugue and his surprisingly robust Liszt First Concerto. The Debussy Etudes intrigue me because I have his very first version of these works, recorded around 1950 (?) for the EMS label. His 1977 Diabelli Variations, released on LP by Peters International and briefly on CD via IMP classics, may well be my favorite modern-era version, and it deserves immediate reissue.


      1. Re Richter’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Russian Revelation only issued a performance of Book I recorded 1969 in Moscow, but not Book II. In addition to Richter’s studio WTC under discussion and issued on many different labels (including Eurodisc, RCA, Melodiya, Olympia and Alto), Japanese RCA released a complete live WTC with Richter recorded 1973 in Innsbruck. It came out as a four CD set, catalog number VICC-60071-4. Unfortunately it’s out of print and nearly impossible to find these days.


      2. Longinus

        I’ll never forget a certain evening in a wonderful pub (now closed – The Three Horseshoes at Lower Hardres) back in the (mid?) 70s, when I was chatting to two friends, one of whom was an American who had recently joined Canterbury Cathedral Choir. Knowing that this chap was an exceptional pianist as well as a published composer, I referred to some opinion from The Classical Style (which had been a Pauline revelation to me at Oxford), to be met with the (completely unselfconscious) rejoinder “When I dropped into Rosen’s dressing room after a concert at Carnegie Hall last month, he said…..”. Collapse of stout party. Rosen was an unusually open artist, and a refutation of the view that you can be a intellectual theorist or a virtuoso but not both.


  5. Steven Swalbe

    Very temperamental artiste. Remember him at the RFH with a 40 watt bulb for his lighting;also listened to him getting lost towards Schumann’s op. 9 (have it) and improvising for 4 minutes. Schubert’s D. 961 was sublime. My first record of him was Rachmaninov’s op 18; also the Liszts impressed me, plus much more.


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