Sviatoslav Richter

Sviatoslav Richter Archives, Vol. 11: Piano Concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Prokofiev

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Though the sound is live and raw, these performances are well worth hearing by any fan of Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter. Taped in France with Lorin Maazel leading either the Orchestre National de l'ORTF or the Orchestre National de France, these performances were recorded in 1964 and 1967 when Richter was at the first peak of his international fame. No doubt they scorched the walls of the auditoriums in which they were played and singed the hair of the audiences that heard them. The Bach F minor Concerto, although decidedly modernist in conception, is diabolically brilliant in the outer movements and deeply soulful in the pizzicato central slow movement -- listen to the way Richter deftly floats the melody line above the strings. The Beethoven C major Concerto, although outrageously virtuosic in the cadenzas, is supremely graceful in the outer movements and sublimely elegant in the central slow movement -- listen to the way Richter balances the right hand's filigrees and arabesques with his left hand's harmonies. Just as great and perhaps more characteristic is the Prokofiev G major Concerto. With complete digital independence, thorough mastery of pedaling, and total control of technique plus a radiantly colorful and immensely weighty tone, Richter can do anything he wants with the music -- and what he wants to do is present it as clearly as possible, revealing a work of strength and feeling, wit and wisdom. The young Maazel is a model accompanist, yielding the lead to Richter but maintaining his sense of poise and composure while the two French orchestras play with the kind of awe-struck dedication that comes from performing with one of the greatest pianists of the second half of the twentieth century.

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