DVORAK: Piano Concerto in g minor, Op. 33; SCHUBERT: Fantasy for Piano in C Major, D. 760 “Wanderer” – Sviatoslav Richter, p./ Bavarian State Orch./ Carlos Kleiber – Warner Classics 0724356689527, 59:30 (8/28/15) *****:
Warner restores two classic inscriptions by Russian piano virtuoso Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997), doubtless in honor of his centennial year. If Richter’s realization from Paris of Schubert’s “Wanderer” Fantasy (11-18 February 1963) has remained legendary, so too has his collaboration with the brilliantly eccentric conductor Carlos Kleiber (1930-2004) in the original, uncut version of the Piano Concerto of Antonin Dvorak (18-21 June 1976).
The 1876 Dvorak Concerto, once deemed “the concerto for two right hands,” became a Sviatoslav Richter favorite, a work he selected early in his appearances at Royal Albert Hall in London. As Kleiber makes exceedingly clear, the concept for the work remains eminently symphonic, with the orchestra’s holding forth in much of the melodic tissue in the first movement, aided by the composer’s deft woodwind coloration. What yearning quality the music conveys, Richter and Kleiber share the Allegro agitato’s persuasive momentum in sweeping motion. The trumpet punctuations that move along with Richter’s cascades achieve the character of Czech pageant in the course of the development. Soon, the bassoon carries the slinky hues to the keyboard as they progress to another set of monumental declamations to set up the recapitulation. The cadenza carries its brief but haunting persuasions, especially given Richter’s carillon tones.
A tender horn solo opens the Andante sostenuto, marked by a simple sequence much in the Brahms tradition. Richter and Kleiber extend its essentially meditative – though playful in the middle section – nature to a grand statement, which then subsides into its originally contemplative affect. Three energetic themes constitute the Allegro con fuoco last movement, eminently Czech in character. The broad melody decorated by triplets becomes particularly memorable in this rendition. Before the frenetic, sometimes wayward dance ends, Dvorak ties all loose ends into a dazzling peroration in G Major. Kleiber’s contribution to the symphonic richness of the score has been substantial.
Schubert’s most demanding piano solo composition, the 1822 Wanderer-Fantasie, takes its initial cue from Schubert’s own 1821 song Der Wanderer, D. 493. In four unbroken evolving sections, the work embodies a form that both Liszt and Schoenberg found practicable and attractive. Richter brings a towering strength to the first statement, a stentorian march in C Major with a tender counter-subject. The various and knotty moments of counterpoint and syncopation fall like butter dominoes before Richter’s granite fingers, though he can soften their tissue with velvet gloves. The prolonged dominant harmony at the end of Allegro con fuoco foils our expectation with a sudden descent into c-sharp minor for the Adagio, another march, but decidedly funereal. The variations that follow enjoy the tense introspection and melodic serenity Richter bestows on Schubert generally. With a monster series of spasms, Richter moves to the Presto section, heroic and playful at once. The resonance emanating from Richter’s bass chords could knock down several Philistine temples of Dagon. One more Herculean set of cadences takes us into the contrapuntal Allegro, here as titanic as anything in Mussorgsky. The immensity of the music’s sweep should carry any listener to his audio equipment many times over.
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