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Sviatoslav Richter in the 1950's, Vol. 5
Franz [Vienna] Schubert, Claude Debussy, Karol Szymanowski
Sviatoslav Richter in the 1950's, Vol. 5
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #2


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CD Reviews

Forever a Giant
Simon | Paris, FRA | 09/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Parnassus has done an excellent job of providing music-lovers worldwide with five outstanding volumes of Sviatoslav Richter's playing before his introduction to Western audiences. Being a huge fan of the first, second, third, and fourth albums, I got this one as soon as it came-out. I was not disappointed, for the playing here is tremendous. Richter was the complete pianist; this 5th volume is yet another display of his all-embracing repertoire, stretching from Mozart to Debussy, Liszt to Szymanowski, and serves as a showcase of Richter's dazzling technique, prying attention to detail, and raw musical instinct.

BUYER BEWARE: The sound in this volume (and in the series in general) is mediocre, hence the four stars. This 2-CD set should be bought not for leisurely listening, but for musical and historical reasons, and for the pure craving for Sviatoslav Richter's exceptional pianism.

The album begins with a work closely associated with Richter. Richter's interpretation of the Schubert B-flat Sonata (D.960) has its admirers, but for my tastes it is too long, too slow, too philosophical. The first movement alone lasts some 20-plus minutes; rather unbearable for the audience. However, the "Molto Moderato" put aside, the playing here is exciting and full-blooded. Even the tragic "Andante sostenuto" rings with restlessness and tension.

Tucked in between Schubert and Szymanowski's two gigantic sonatas is Debussy's delightful Prelude, "La Danse de Puck." The playing is no longer searching and introspective, as requires the Schubert, but pleasantly playful. Richter was unsurpassed in Debussy.

The last work on this first CD is Szymanowski's stunning Sonata in A minor, Op. 21. Richter steers his way through the technical hurdles of this slightly over-written piece with aplomb. It is a magnificent recording, one that fails to leave the listener upon first hearing it.

The second CD takes a dramatic shift with Mozart's A Minor Sonata (K.310). Richter was known for his discomfort with Mozart's music, but not a hint of uneasiness seeps through in this interpretation. Indeed, the playing is confident, vigorous, passionate, while at the same time displaying the sensitive delicacy that is required for Mozart. This may in fact be the greatest of the performances heard in this volume.

Richter will surely not be remembered throughout the ages for his Mozart playing, but few pianists can compare when it comes to the music of Franz Liszt. Richter performed a large amount of Liszt in the earlier part of his career, and Volume 3 of this same series contains a marvelous assortment of works from "Les Années du Pélerinage," to add to the legendary recording of the B Minor Sonata done in 1965. The selections in this volume are just as good. The rarely-played "Pensées des morts" is a breath of fresh air from the dozen or so works by Liszt that regularly populate concert halls, and so is the 17th Rhapsody. The Polonaise, Scherzo & March, Consolation, and "Nuages gris" are better known, and Richter takes the opportunity in these works to display his remarkable control of the piano. Whether it be a hellish run from the Scherzo, or the gloomy tremolos of "Nuages gris," he executes everything superbly.

Last but definitely not least in this compilation are Schumann's obscure Fugues, Op. 72. Richter loved to occasionally pull works out of the depths of oblivion, choosing to spend time learning these forgotten gems instead of well-known pieces. These four fugues may not be on the level of a Kreisleriana or a Carnaval, but they are interesting to say the least and deserve a look. Too much of Schumann's late piano music has been neglected.

This volume provides a satisfying close to the series, but one can only wish that more historic recordings of the titan that was Sviatoslav Richter will someday be unearthed. Let us hope for a 6th album!"