Sviatoslav Richter

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D. 958, D. 960

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Sviatoslav Richter's 1972 Salzburg recordings of Schubert -- a heroic reading of the C minor Sonata and a searing account of the B flat major Sonata -- are stupendous performances. Richter was the greatest of the Soviet-era Russian pianists, whose combination of strength and sensitivity made him an ideal Schubert player, and these two sonatas are especially well-suited to his gifts. In Richter's hands, the C minor Sonata doesn't sound like the Beethoven knock-off some lesser pianists have made it out to be; it sounds like Schubert in a heaven-storming mood. The B flat major Sonata doesn't sound like Schubert with one foot in the grave, but with one foot on the stairway to heaven. The performances deliver not just enormous aesthetic satisfaction, but also complete emotional catharsis, and what more could one reasonably ask for? Great sound, actually, but it is unfortunately raw and realistic.

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