Sviatoslav Richter was one of the most widely acclaimed pianists of his generation, and his popularity has remained well after the end of his performance career. This comes with good reason as Richter offered his audiences the best of what his instrument had to offer: powerful yet intimate playing, sublime introspection, and understanding of the music at hand, and dazzling technique that never overshadowed tasteful and informed musicianship.
This fifth volume of Parnassus Records' Richter in the 1950s series is sure please Richter fans as well as aficionados of recordings from this golden age of piano virtuosos. Recorded before his international acclaim really began in the 1960s, we hear Richter demonstrating his amazing technique to audiences a little more than the more mature player tended to. The Schubert D. 960 sonata is a clear example of the profundity of Richter's playing. The first movement is quite slow (though still not as slow as he was to play it later in life) but never seems to drag. Rather, Richter floats the listener above the music. The Scherzo is sprightly and elegant. The more subdued nature of this piece does not suffer from the poor recording quality the way some of the more exuberant works do. The other highlight of this volume is the infrequently heard Szymanowski Sonata No. 2. Despite the poor recording quality, the clarity and transparency of Richter's technique is still quite obvious.