Sviatoslav Richter

Concert 1993

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By ignoring certain uncomfortable facts, it might be possible to consider these very fine performances. It would require ignoring the fact that Saint-Saëns' Fifth Piano Concerto and Gershwin's Piano Concerto don't sound much like the actual works. One would also have to ignore the problem that neither pianist Sviatoslav Richter nor conductor Christoph Eschenbach sounds much like himself here. That is not to say the performers don't play the right notes, because they do. Richter is, as always, a bravura virtuoso, and from a technical point of view his performances are a marvel. Eschenbach is a skillful conductor who knows not only how to accompany the incandescent Richter, but how to take the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR along with him. But neither performer seems to have a clue as to what the music should actually sound like. The Saint-Saëns sounds stiff, formal, exceedingly dry, with little wit and less affection, while the Gershwin sounds awkward, ungainly, and wholly deracinated. Richter fanatics will want to hear this recording once, but it's unlikely they would return to it very often.

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