P1197. SVIATOSLAV RICHTER: The Complete Columbia & RCA Album Collection, incl. Chopin, Schubert, Schumann, Stravinsky, Ravel, et al. 18-Sony 88843014702, w.facsimile sleeves & labels, Boxed Set Edition. [Already a legend in his native Soviet Union when he came to the West for the first time in 1960, Sviatoslav Richter cemented his legend with his five Carnegie Hall recitals. Packaged with their original covers, this 18-disc collection of Richter's RCA and Columbia recordings documents those concerts alongside other live and studio performances, and all show the master in peak form. The accompanying booklet includes an essay by pianist Jed Distler, discussing Richter's life and legacy.] - 888430147027
“To celebrate the Richter anniversary, Sony Classical has released an 18-disc box set of all his live and studio recordings for RCA and Columbia, newly remastered. The collection goes from the [Chicago] 1960 Brahms Second through two discs of live recordings Richter made in 1988 at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany, including Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with Christoph Eschenbach and the festival orchestra. During his career, Richter recorded for many companies, including Russian labels; his discography is sizable. Still, with the breadth of repertory contained here (Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, Schumann, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff), this Sony set offers a rich, exciting portrait.
If Richter was an enigmatic man, his playing was anything but. Whether charging through Prokofiev sonatas, exploring the fantastical realms of Schumann’s piano pieces, or playing Debussy with ravishing delicacy, Richter makes every element of a performance purposeful. In a 1996 review in The New York Times of a 10-disc set of Richter recordings for Melodiya, the critic Bernard Holland wrote that authority rises around the pianist’s performances ‘like great stone monuments’. Mr. Richter, he asserted, ‘does not interpret a piece of music; he looms over it’.
After Stalin’s death in 1953, the Soviet Union lifted a bit of the Iron Curtain to allow some major midcareer Russian artists to make debuts in America. Among them were the violinist David Oistrakh and the pianist Emil Gilels, both in 1955. Notably missing was the towering pianist Sviatoslav Richter, an artist of, in the best sense, demonic powers, whose performances combined stunning technique, myriad colorings and fierce integrity. Every time Gilels was lavished with praise by musicians in America, he would offer thanks, then add, ‘Wait until you hear Richter!’
…when Richter auditioned at Moscow Conservatory for the pianist Heinrich Neuhaus, who would become his most influential teacher, Neuhaus, deeply impressed, whispered to a nearby student that he thought young Richter a ‘musician of genius’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 Sept., 2015
“I don’t know if it is possible to explain to anybody the extraordinary phenomenon his personality and playing created. We can only hope that this can also be sensed through the recordings, for Richter is one of the few performers whose individuality is clearly manifest on a recording, regardless of its quality, and at each subsequent listening his playing gives a greater, more staggering experience than we are able to remember.”
- Dezso Ránki
“There were quite a number of great pianists in the Twentieth Century. There are even great pianists in the Twenty-First Century. But Richter stands alone, the purity and passion of his devotion to music, of his unique genius, obvious in every note. This was a man who said, in all modesty, just play the notes on the page. Yet he was a man able to transmit the spiritual essence of music, a man able to leap the chasm between self and other, between aesthetics and life. What a tale he might have told were he inclined to the verbal. But he was not. His comments about his music making were most often along the lines of, ‘I played well’, or, ‘I played poorly’. Neuhaus instantly recognized him, his first true genius pupil, when Richter arrived at the Moscow Conservatory at the unusually old age of 22. ‘He makes a nearly perfect interpretation as soon as he sees a work. I have never seen any other pianist that has wider artistic horizon than him’. But I don’t imagine Richter cared one way or the other. The music was all that ever mattered.
Someone described Richter as a sort of chameleon, taking on the hues of the music he’s performing. This is apt. I remember the first time I heard him play Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. It is the sweetest, simplest, most honest and heart felt playing of this wonderful music, and this from the man I had always considered the greatest Beethoven exponent on record. It was the same with Bach’s’Well Tempered Clavier’. And with Schubert’s sonatas: absolute truthfulness to the music. Can you imagine a chef who is a master of every cuisine?
As for the music, he makes one use words like ‘greatest’. He washes away considerations and preconceptions through the sheer power and truthfulness of his playing. It is particularly difficult talking about a Richter performance. I recall a Russian expert speaking of Richter in terms of a spiritual teacher. Yes. That is closer to the truth than anything I’ve said.”
- Russell Lichter, THE STEREO TIMES, Jan., 2005