Sviatoslav Richter

Richter the Master, Vol. 4: Beethoven

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There are so many splendid things to say about this two-disc set of Sviatoslav Richter playing Beethoven that it's hard to know where to start. The beginning, with his dryly witty 1986 recording of the E flat major Sonata, Op. 31/3, and its hilarious closing Presto con fuoco. Or the end, with his warmly collegial 1993 recording of the E flat major Quintet for Piano and Winds with members of the Quintette Moraguès. But even starting in the middle -- with his ethereal 1986 recording of the two Rondos, Op. 51, or his sublime 1993 recording of the B flat major Trio (called the "Archduke") with violinist Mikhail Kopelman and cellist Valentin Berlinsky from the Borodin -- doesn't cover the best performance here: his exquisitely lyrical 1992 recording of the A major Sonata, Op. 101. With its languid opening "Etwas lebhaft und mit der innigsten Empfindung"; its rambunctious central "Lefhaft, marschmässig"; its touching "Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll" introducing its blustery but side-splitting closing "Geschwind," Richter's Opus 101 here surpasses even his 1965 Carnegie Hall performance. Despite the varying recording dates, the sound here is consistently clean and deep.

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