Doremi DHR-7892, 72:33 (Distrib. Allegro) ****:
Volume 13 of the Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) Edition is devoted to the music of Robert Schumann in performances culled from live concerts, 1958-1986. Richter opens big, with an extremely “present” account of the Schumann Piano Concerto from Moscow, 17 April 1958. Alternately steely and melting and poetic, Richter captures the aggressive and dreamy sides of Schumann’s musical persona. Georgescu, one of Roumania’s glowing lights along with Silvestri and Celibidache, is in powerful fettle, leading the occasional orchestral tutti with unabashed ferocity. Richter takes the cadenza at first deliberately, but he intensifies the passion and the stretti. Wicked trills over and under the main theme. Pearly play for the imitative passages. Nice oboe entry for the beginning of a thrilling coda, all punch and power. A lullaby of an Intermezzo, with exquisitely blended cellos and violas in support of Richter’s soft arpeggios. One zesty chord, the orchestral tissue “ripping,” as we say, and we are in throes of the Allegro vivace, Richter all fluent toccatas. Dragonfly fioritura in the double notes, fleet 16th note filigree, and a fully rounded series of cadences from Richter, Georgescu right there like a glove made for rapier, swashbuckling heroics. Listen for the tympani part prior to the key change setting up the last repetitions prior to the rousing coda.
Never the “integralist,” Richter performs the second half of Schumann’s Op. 10 Studies on Paganini Caprices (16 October 1986) from Takasaki, Japan. The Maestoso No. 4, almost an independent fantasy out one of the longer suites, is classic Richter, poetic granite or marble, the Michelangelo of pianists. Richter keeps adding layers of sound and then makes them dissipate into the ether. The middle section, a four-note riff in sequences, could supply Brahms with a hundred motifs. The last page sounds more like Schubert than Schumann, excepting the urge to mania just beneath the surface. Allegro ma non troppo No. 5 is a close kin to Chopin’s own Op. 10, a syncope in startling imitation of a violin’s bariolage technique. Sostenuto–Allegro No. 6 begins with brilliant arpeggios that sound like warm-up chords for a Hofmann concert. Then the toccata erupts, a moto perpetuo with Richter tireless and effortless until the da capo.
Two esteemed string virtuosi join with Richter for Schumann chamber music: Yuri Bashmet plies his sonorous viola in the Fairy-Tale Marches, Op. 113 (from Moscow 13 December 1985). Bashmet’s gorgeous tone in its tenor register, nicht schnell, makes me want to hear him in Harold in Italy. The Lebhaft is a hearty march in fiery colors, Bashmet’s bow bouncing while Richter provides a rock-like bass that suddenly flows out, a limpid stream. Sweeping gestures in the Rasch section lead to the meditation of Eusebius that concludes the suite, slowly, with melancholy recollection of a lost dream.
From Tours, France (3 July 1969) comes the last collaboration, with the great cellist Pierre Fournier in the three fantasy-pieces, Op. 73. Taped by an audience member, the cello retains more sonic presence than the Richter’s piano, which sounds as if it were trapped in a telephone booth. But for the privilege of hearing two initiates into the sweet mysteries of Schumann–especially when they play mit Rasch und mit Feuer as marked in the last piece–we can easily bear the sweet burden.
— Gary Lemco