Sviatoslav Richter: 1948-1956 Recordings = SCHUBERT: Moments musicaux No. 1 in C Major; Impromptu in E-flat Major; Impromptu in A-flat Major, No. 2; CHOPIN: Etude in E Minor; SCHUMANN: Fantasiestuecke; Humoreske in B-flat Major – Naxos Historical

by | Sep 7, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Sviatoslav Richter: 1948-1956 Recordings = SCHUBERT: Moments musicaux, D. 780: No. 1 in C Major; Impromptu in E-flat Major, D. 899, No. 2; Impromptu in A-flat Major, D. 935, No. 2; CHOPIN: Etude in E Minor, Op. 25, No. 5; SCHUMANN: Fantasiestuecke, Op. 12: 5 sections; Humoreske in B-flat Major, Op. 20 – Sviatoslav Richter, piano

Naxos 8.111352, 66:09 [Not Distr. in the USA] ****:


Reissue producer and audio restoration engineer Ward Marston hereby resurrects the Moscow 78 rpm and early LP legacy of Russian virtuoso Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997), several offered for the first time in a medium other than their original format. Even as a young recording artist, Richter assumed the persona of a non-integralist, one not interested in any composer’s “complete editions.” In 1948 he recorded (on 78 prm) five excerpts from Schumann’s Op. 12, adding Traumes-Wirren later, in 1956.  

The opening C Major Moment musical (1952) typifies Richter’s hard-edged, steely approach, long on articulation and cool in demeanor, though his legato proves silken despite the hollow reverberation of the recording venue. The E-flat Impromptu (1950) under Richter resembles any Chopin etude in the same key, fleet, unsentimental, pianistic granite. The more lyrical A-flat Impromptu (1952, from 8-inch 78 microgroove) presents a softer persona, nicely harmonized in broad, sensitive colors.  For the one Chopin E Minor Etude in minor seconds and middle-section E Major songfulness, Richter takes a quick tempo throughout.

Immediate contrast occurs with the opening of Schumann’s Des Abends (in D-flat) from Fantasiestuecke, its limpid. 2/8 evocation of evening all erotic promises and cross rhythms. The F Minor Aufschwung alternates clarion trumpets with swirling eddies. More D-flat yearning for Warum? the ultimate, existential question. Richter gives the F Minor In der Nacht a subdued sense of terror, the “howling storm” of Blake’s “The Sick Rose.” The abbreviated suite ends “Mit gutem Humor” in F Major, the End of the Song. Despite some tinny reverberation the effect is pure Florestan, confident and tinged with that sense of romantic ardor that makes Schuman’s music compelling to his acolytes.

Richter added the B-flat Major Humoreske of Schumann to his repertory around 1950. This recording (1956, from Melodiya LP) captures the mercurial and dreamy moods of the piece, its sudden raptures, its wistful regrets. The seven movements of the suite likely respond to certain elements in the work of Jean-Paul Richter, Schumann’s literary idol at the time.  Three-hand effects and stratified polyphony saturate the piece, which often accumulates a hectic passion in the course of its march-legends. The Intermezzo and the appropriately marked “Innig” movement proceed with brittle inwardness, and we eavesdrop on a private world made accessible through Richter’s natural sympathy.

–Gary Lemco

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