ICA Classics – Sviatoslav Richter plays Haydn, Weber, Schumann, Chopin & Debussy

0 of 5 stars

Piano Sonata in E flat, Hob.HVI:52
Piano Sonata No.3 in D minor, Op.49
Novelletten, Op.21 – No.4 in D; No.8 in F sharp minor
Barcarolle, Op.60
Préludes: Book II [selections – Les Fées sont d’exquises danseuse; Canope; Les tierces alternées; Feux d’artifice]

Sviatoslav Richter (piano)

Recorded 11 June 1967 in Royal Festival Hall, London

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: October 2011
Duration: 78 minutes



78 minutes of Sviatoslav Richter playing a varied repertoire is no hardship, even if the mono sound is a little muted and pallid. But the ear adjusts, and the Haydn is wonderfully strong and frisky. Here’s a pianist not afraid to bring weight to proceedings and he also delights in runs and staccatos; Richter pecks at the latter with a disarming dry wit. Haydn’s grandest keyboard sonata is here explored rather than played, although one might have expected the first movement’s second half (in which the development section scorches) to also be repeated. Haydn tends to spoil it for other composers; here a searching slow movement and then a dashing finale, Richter’s fleet fingers doing the talking in the latter, complete the confection.

Poor Weber, then, his D minor Piano Sonata has its chocolate-box attractions (the first movement’s second subject, for example); otherwise triteness and faux profundity seem to co-exist before the tempestuously empty finale is reached. That Richter is commanding throughout questions one’s judgement, and so it is good to have him around to test one’s reaction from time to time.

Unqualified masterpieces follow. Two of Schumann’s Novelletten have the requisite deep-seated emotionalism and volatility. Chopin’s great Barcarolle exudes poise and gentleness at the beginning, a dreamscape conjured, and then impetus and poise are in equilibrium, Richter both delicate and manly (if just a little accelerating and brusque at times albeit secure in navigation.) Four of Debussy’s Préludes are simply mesmerising, so modern; no Romantic excess or cosseting from Richter; rather he points the music forward; and very revealing it is too.

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