Sviatoslav Richter

Classic Archive: Sviatoslav Richter - Mozart, Chopin, Rachmaninov

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Classic Archive: Sviatoslav Richter - Mozart, Chopin, Rachmaninov    By Sviatoslav Richter

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Most of this DVD was made at a 1989 London concert filmed by the BBC. The 74-year-old Richter insisted on a darkened hall, a 40-watt gooseneck lamp trained on the music stand the only light source on stage while he played. His purpose was to focus audience attention on the music, not on the performer. Whatever the intention, the results can be compared to a mystical ceremony, the pianist as High Priest invoking musical truths. This ceremonial aspect of the concert is heightened by Richter’s austere platform manner and the black backgrounds that engulf the picture. Fortunately, the BBC crew was able to capture closeups of Richter’s hands on the keyboard, giving us lessons in finger control, dynamic gradations, and legato playing. To see how Richter accomplishes these and other effects is priceless. But whatever idiosyncrasies were part of Richter’s rare concertizing in his last years, the musical performances are extraordinary. Richter’s Mozart was unique in its tempo variations and his infusion of strong Romantic overtones, digging deep into the inner dramas of the scores. His E Flat Major Sonata, K.282, for example, begins slowly but gains depth and gravity via his powerful bass line, while In the C Major, K.545, Richter’s Andante sings soulfully. The A Minor Sonata, K. 310, perhaps Mozart’s greatest, has great cumulative power while the slow movement becomes a tragic operatic aria in all but name. The Chopin works, selected Etudes, take that composer out of the drawing room and into the larger frame of full-blooded Romanticism. In Opus 10, No. 2 we see Richter’s scintillating right hand figures while Op. 10, No. 4 is a pianistic version of shock and awe, especially after the songful No.3, and watching Richter in the finger-breaker of Op. 25, No.8 is riveting. A black-and-white bonus of three short works by Rachmaninov and Chopin show Richter 20 years younger, the playing as extraordinary, the body language and facial expressions far more mobile, making a fitting close to a DVD all admirers of great pianism will want. --Dan Davis

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