These are the typical time-standing-still performances by Richter at the hight of his artistic maturity. He creates the undescribable aura around every piece he plays here. If you think of cough-infested earlier BBC Legend Schubert CD, don't worry. Usually critical British audience are very quiet and spell-bound throughout, there's a still one idiot who manages to cough in a magical moment in Schumann's Fantasiestuck though. Debussy's Image is miraculously subtle.
Although recorded stereo in 1979(Am Sonata)&69, sound quality is poor (as good as Richter's Melodiya live recordings from the same period), but that should not be the reason to avoid the performances of such inspiration and imagination.
This arresting installment in BBC Legends' extensive Richter series, which covers many recitals he gave in the UK, begins with a piece he included on a 1979 tour. Other versions of Schubert's Sonata in A minor D. 784 come from Japan, a previous stop. All are closely similar; this one from royal Festival Hall is a bit more bangy in Richter's sharp attacks in the first movement; they are so aggressive that I was surprised to read that if you follow with score, Richter is being utterly scrupulous to the composer's markings. the sound is reasonably good broadcast stereo, but with noticeable hiss and tape gritch. Some reviewers have found Richter's interpretation unduly bleak, but I think that applies only to the first movement. to me, he's certainly austere yet compelling. The rest of the program, taken from a separate concert in Manchester in 1969, was miked closer but is a bit duller.
I've never heard - or even heard of - Schubert's 13 Variations on a Theme by Huttenbrenner D. 576, and the chief interest here, so far as I can tell, is that Richter was interested in it; otherwise the theme itself is unpromising and dry, the variations skillful but without any remarkable events, although one might be reminded of Beethoven's thorny abruptness. I think most serious listeners would rank Schumann as one of Richter's strongest composers. He played and recorded the Fantasiestucke Op. 12 quite frequently form the late Forites onward, always omitting nos. 4 and 6, and sometimes no. 7, although not here. It would make for a cozy connoisserus' discussion to pick which Richter version is the very best. This one, however, is typical in its complete mastery and poetic depth. I was grateful that in the stormy No. 2 "Aufschwung," the pianist avoids angry, clangorous attacks.Read more ›