Sviatoslav Richter

Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas

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While there have been multiple releases of many of Sviatoslav Richter's performances of Prokofiev's piano sonatas, two of these three recordings have never been released before on compact disc, and they are also the first releases of Richter's first extant recordings of these works. The performance of Sonata No. 6 is thought to have been recorded in Moscow in October 1956, making it a month earlier than the recording from Prague in November, previously considered the earliest. The performance of Sonata No. 9 is said to have been recorded in Moscow in September 1956, making it three months earlier than the Prague recording of December 1956. The performance of Sonata No. 7, here said to have been recorded in Moscow in April 1958, was previously reissued just once, but it does pre-date by two months the canonical and much reissued Moscow recording from June 1958.

This news will likely thrill Richter's fans. These are stunningly brilliant performances preserved in staggeringly awful sound. The pounding chords of the Sixth Sonata's Allegro moderato, the slashing octaves of the Seventh Sonata's Precipitato, and the fleet-fingered arabesques of the Ninth Sonata's Allegro strepitoso are impressive for their jaw-dropping virtuosity. The tender phrasing of the Sixth's Tempo di valzer, the tenebrous sonorities of the Seventh's Andante caloroso, and the serene themes of the Ninth's Andante tranquillo are remarkable for their heartmelting expressivity. Equally remarkable, but in a negative way, is the sound quality. Times were tough, but getting better, in Moscow in the years immediately following Stalin's death, but the dreadful sound here recalls the dictator's Great Terror in its stark brutality and dark opacity.

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