Two factors should disqualify this disc immediately. First, the pieces are incomplete and out of order. Second, and arguably more crucially, the pianist misses handfuls of notes in nearly every selection and bucketfuls of notes in some. But some listeners won't care about these things because of the miracle of Sviatoslav Richter. What in another pianist would be grounds for dismissal is here cause for celebration. Check out Richter's Shostakovich: the mysterious colors of his F minor Prelude and Fugue, the fleet virtuosity of his A minor Prelude and Fugue, or the intensity of his E minor Prelude and Fugue. Similarly, the hurtling tempos of Chopin's C major Étude, Op. 10; the shattering climax of his E major Étude, Op. 10; the haunted tragedy of his A minor Étude, Op. 25; or the reckless heroism of his C minor etudes from both Opus 10 and Opus 25. Richter is clearly a pianist with a staggering technique: any pianist who can race through the E minor Étude, Op. 25, at this breakneck pace is manifestly a virtuoso. And clearly he'd rather obey the spirit than the letter of the score. Even though the buildup to the climax of the E major Étude, Op. 10, is splashed with splayed sonorities, the climax itself is so overwhelmingly cathartic that it's hard to recall what led up to it. But above all, there's his sublime interpretation of the Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61, particularly its evanescent coda, which seems to float into the ether under Richter's tender touch. Recorded in Prague in 1956 (Shostakovich and Chopin's Polonaise-Fantaisie) and in 1960 (Chopin's etudes), the Czech label's monaural sound is plain and direct, but honest.
Review by James Leonard
|Preludes & Fugues (24), for piano, Op. 87|
|Etudes (12) for piano, Op. 10, CT. 14-25|
|Etudes (12) for piano, Op. 25, CT. 26-37|