To set the record straight, there are six recordings of Sviatoslav Richter playing Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. There's the magnificent 1952 Moscow recording, the superlative 1956 Prague recording, the staggering 1958 Budapest recording, the sublime 1958 Sofia recording, the fiery 1968 London recording, the almost unknown 1969 Naples recording, and this stunning 1958 Moscow recording. While there's debate about which of these six is the second best recording, there is no argument that the 1958 Sofia recording is not only the best of the six, it is also one of the greatest recordings of anything ever made anytime anywhere. But, among Richter aficionados, the runner up is either the staggering 1958 Budapest recording made days before the Sofia recording or this 1958 Moscow made months later. As with all of Richter's recordings of Pictures, both share the same sense of the awesome and the ecstatic along with the same sense of affection, intimacy, humor, pathos, and humanity. The Budapest recording is a bit more reckless, while the Moscow recording is a bit more controlled, and the Budapest recording is a little more agitated, while the Moscow recording is a little more serene. In this issue, the sound of Moscow recording has never been warmer and the coupling with Richter's incomparable 1956 Moscow recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Sonata has never been more appropriate. Everyone should hear Richter's 1958 Sofia Pictures. And pretty much everyone who hears it will want to hear his 1958 Budapest and his 1958 Moscow, too.
P. Tchaikovsky, M. Mussorgsky
P. Tchaikovsky, M. Mussorgsky Review
by James Leonard
|Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 37|
|Pictures at an Exhibition (Kartinki s vïstavski), for orchestra, orchestrated by Ravel|