Sviatoslav Richter

Schubert: Piano Sonata D958; Bartók: Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs Sz71; Szymanowski: Two Pieces from 'Masques's' & Others

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So many live recordings of performances by Sviatoslav Richter continue to be uncovered and released that his fans have the happy dilemma of having to choose between many superlative versions of a piece. This December 1970 concert, taped at London's Royal Festival Hall, shows that although Richter performed the same works over and over again, he rarely if ever repeated himself. The opening and closing works, Schubert's C minor Sonata and Prokofiev's B flat major Sonata, are familiar to all the pianists' fans from many other live recordings, yet these performances are wholly new and fresh. Richter's C minor Sonata is tragic and powerful; the opening Allegro is titanic in conception and fearsome in execution, and he always brings out the lyricism of the composer's achingly beautiful melodies. The B flat major Sonata is heroic yet tender at heart, with a bludgeoning Allegro inquieto and a blistering Precipato surrounding a singing Andante caloroso. Bartók's 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs and two pieces from Szymanowski's Masques are much rarer; there are two extant Richter recordings of the Bartók and no extant recordings of the Szymanowski, at least so far. Both performances are outstanding, especially the rhapsodic account of Szymanowski's swirling Scheherazade. Though the recorded sound here is serviceable at best, the performances are magnificent, and any dedicated Richter admirer will want to hear them all.

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