Sviatoslav Richter

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 3; Bagatelles; Piano Sonata No. 29 "Hammerklavier"

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This release reproduces a famous 1975 concert that has been only intermittently available, and never on CD in an authorized version. Even with plenty of hiss, and a London audience that coughs brutally through the key transition between the third and fourth movements of the Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier"), the depth and power of these performances show through. It is said that Richter, when he made his Moscow debut, played for a sparse crowd at the beginning, but that those in attendance rushed out at intermission to get their friends, and by the end the house was full. This performance has that quality. Everywhere, Richter seems to strike a balance between structural insight and virtuosity, or, perhaps better, to understand that balance as it exists in Beethoven's music. The opening Piano Sonata in C major, Op. 2/3, is the highlight of the whole album; it seethes with Beethoven's youthful energy, and Richter is unerring in applying explosive attacks at just the right time. Hardly less impressive is that vast "Hammerklavier," where Richter is one of the few who did not fudge some part of the finale, and who gives the opening two movements their proper weight to balance the giant slow movement and finale. There is in Richter's playing an uncanny combination of making the listener wonder what is coming next, yet never losing control of the whole. A rightly renowned recording that belongs in any serious Beethoven collection.

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