Though Sviatoslav Richter died in 1997, the great Russian pianist's recordings are still being released at a prodigious rate. Naturally, the vast majority of these recordings are live -- Richter made relatively few studio recordings, but his fans made enormous numbers of recordings of his live performances -- and many of them are not only superlative but historically significant. This 2008 BBC Music release, for example, features Richter's British debut recital given on July 8, 1961, in Royal Festival Hall, and it is both superlative and historical. On the program is Haydn's Sonata in F major (Hob. XVI:29) plus four works by Prokofiev: his Second and Eighth sonatas; the Légende, Op. 12/6; and 10 of the 20 Visions fugitives, Op. 22. Needless to say, Richter is Richter: the huge sound, nuanced tone, expressive sensitivity, gargantuan technique, and complete digital independence that are the hallmarks of his other performances are all on display here. True to form, Richter does sometimes slip -- there are moments in Eighth Sonata's opening Andante dolce that make him sound more like a Russian banger than a Russian poet -- but these moments are rare and the overall standard of playing is Olympian. This disc will not be necessary for casual classical fans, nor even for less than wholly committed Richter fans. But for those listeners who know and love his work, this disc will be absolutely mandatory. BBC Music's monaural sound is gray and one dimensional, but clear enough to let Richter's performances shine through.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Keyboard Sonata in F major, H. 16/29|
|Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14|
|Pieces (10) for piano, Op. 12|
|Visions fugitives (20), for piano, Op. 22|
|Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major ("War Sonata 3"), Op. 84|