Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6

Sviatoslav Richter

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Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6 Review

by James Leonard

Every Richter fan will want to hear his performances of four of Bach's English Suites (6) taped in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow on May 20, 1991. Recorded near the end of his career, they are Richter at his most deeply affecting and deeply human. Richter was 76 when he gave these performances, but they reveal no lack of power, no technical weakness, and certainly no want of intensity. But at this point in his life and always in this repertoire, Richter has restrained his virtuosity to concentrate on Bach's linear counterpoint played with such complete independence of the fingers that every line is clear, cogent, and compelling. But more than anything, Richter's lines are voices, all singing their own lines in effortless and ineluctable ensemble with each other and thereby creating a whole infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. In these late performances, Richter is at his most lyrical, with each voice given its own supple phrasing and its own sweet tone. While being quintessentially pianistic, Richter's performance of Bach's music is essentially the sound of Richter singing. Great Hall's sound is raw and honest.

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