Sviatoslav Richter plays Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 3 - Bagatelles, Op. 126, Nos. 1, 4 & 6 - Piano Sonata No. 29, 'Hammerklavier'
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The Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter
(1915 1997) was one of the greatest
interpreters of the 20th century, along
with his compatriots Emil Gilels, David
Oistrakh and Mstislav Rostropovich.
As Richard Osborne says of Richter's
playing in his booklet note, 'Bravura
technique matched to high intelligence
and a richly developed musical
imagination is a rare combination
of qualities in any instrumentalist.'
Richter made his debut in the West in 1960 with
Beethoven's Piano Sonata op.2 no.3 at a recital in
New York. Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' Sonata was
one of the main features of Richter's programming
in the summer of 1975 in Prague, London and
Aldeburgh, the latter performed one week prior to
London and recorded on BBC Legends.
Richter's live recitals catch him at his very best
compared to the confines of the studio. The 1975
recital in London was considered a landmark, one
of the greatest that Richter gave in this country
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I own recordings of three different Richter performances of the program, all recorded in 1975. This one was at London's Royal Festival Hall on June 18. Then there is one recorded at Aldeburgh a few days earlier. And one recorded in Prague in January of that year. They have great similarities but I have to say that the recorded sound, as remastered on this issue, is superior to the other two.
Further, the performance of the Op. 2, No. 3 on the present CD is simply titanic. Richter was known for his ferocious performance of this sonata, which is so often played as if it were Haydn, and it is my opinion that this particular performance is the best of the lot. This is no namby-pamby classical sonata in Richter's hands, but a lion of a work.
The 'Hammerklavier' is also given a stunning performance here.
As for the three Bagatelles, which are not trifles as their title suggests, these too are exemplary performances that wring the last bit of drama out of these little masterpieces.
I'd suggest that anyone interested in the program and Richter's overall approach should read Jeffrey Lipscomb's review at the product page for the Aldeburgh recital: Beethoven: Sonatas Nos. 29 "Hammerklavier" & 3; Bagatelles Op. 126.