BRAHMS: Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34; Paganini Variations, Op. 35; Four Pieces from Fantasien, Op. 116 – Sviatoslav Richter, piano/ Tatrai String Quartet – Doremi

by | Mar 25, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34; Paganini Variations, Op. 35; Four Pieces from Fantasien, Op. 116 – Sviatoslav Richter, piano/ Tatrai String Quartet

Doremi DHR-7882, 77:56 (Distrib. Allegro) ****:

Volume 12 of Doremi’s ongoing Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) series continues with a liquid, highly sympathetic reading of the Brahms F Minor Piano Quintet from Budapest (13 February 1958). This warm live inscription seems to be the only such surviving document of Richter’s devotion to this heady piece. Despite some audience coughing and restlessness, the sonic definition is good, and the balances, though geared forward to the strings, still captures a pensive, searching Richter, especially in the Schubert-inspired Andante, un poco Adagio. The Tatrai Quartet, founded in 1946 by Vilmos Tatrai, won the covered Kossuth Prize in 1958, the same year as this inscription of the Quintet. A whirlwind of a Bismarckian Scherzo leads to the eerie chords of the Finale: Poco sustention, with its Schubert-based melody and serpentine harmonies, bordering on a twelve-tone row. Cellist Ede Banda explores some passionate depths on his part. As always, Richter’s piano part feels like the panther can strike at any moment.

The Paganini Variations derives from a live performance given in Takasaki, Japan (16 October 1986). Richter’s granite hands gobble up the huge digital hurdles in these etudes at one fell swoop. The piano sound is piercing but not harsh. Richter was not happy about Philips publishing his 1988 Paganini Variations as an “authorized” version. Here, Richter’s staggering technique is in colossal form, the heavy punctuations in Brahms bordering on the obsessive. Rarely has the bridge from Brahms to Paganini to Liszt been made so apparent. The broken-octaves variation in Book I basks in Richter’s musicbox sonority. If the audience were not already beside themselves at the conclusion of Book I, they are ready to crown Richter Emperor by the end of the sweeping variants, thundering block chords, and effortless glissandi of Book II.

An audience-sourced tape from Cesena (11 April 1992) of four of the Op. 116 Fantasien gives us the tiger in not-so-pretty sound, but the intensities are there in spades. Ever the non-integralist, Richter played only No. 3, G Minor; No. 5, E Minor; No. 6, C Minor; and No. 7, D Minor capriccios and intermezzi. The G Minor possesses a fluid frenzy, percussive and lyrical at once. The E Minor’s stuttering question and answers adumbrate Schoenberg. The C Minor opens like a Bach chorale-prelude, but it becomes both more tender and more subjectively fervent, rainy day music wistful, even bitter. The demonic D Minor answers Chopin’s prelude in the same key. Acid rain, this capriccio, full of sound and considerable fury.

— Gary Lemco

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