Sviatoslav Richter - (The War Sonatas)  (Prokofiev)   (Russia Revelation 10094)
Item# P0046
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Sviatoslav Richter - (The War Sonatas)  (Prokofiev)   (Russia Revelation 10094)
P0046. SVIATOSLAV RICHTER: Sonata #6 in A - 2 May, 1966; Sonata #7 in B-flat - 10 May, 1970; Sonata #8 in B-flat - 17 April, 1961 (The War Sonatas) (Prokofiev). (England) Russia Revelation 10094. Long Out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 5032636100941


“These performances here all have the craggy muscularity and sense of inevitability that are hallmarks of Richter at his best. There is audience noise but no applause, so presumably these are live performances with retakes patched in. In any case what they marginally lack in technical control compared to his finest accounts in the studio they make up for in a passionate, daredevil excitement which threatens to derail him but never does. The apocalyptic fury at the end of the Sixth Sonata’s outer movements may well be without parallel.

Recording quality is only fair. The Russian engineering cannot compete with DG’s in the Eighth Sonata, and in the Seventh Sonata the sound tends to break up in fortissimo. Not an issue to place above the selected comparisons then, but an attractive one none the less and a worthy memorial to a much lamented artist.”

- GRAMOPHONE, Jan., 1998

“The enigmatic Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter lived with the paradox that all great performers must: that their recreative powers are seen and heard to transcend the music they are playing. That’s despite how forcefully he insisted on his absolute fidelity to the score, as if audiences should really hear only the unvarnished and immutable truths of the notes that Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, Bach, or Prokofiev wrote rather than Richter’s own ‘interpretation’. But that can be partly true only if ever it’s a useful or even essential fiction that Richter needed to tell himself. That’s because Richter’s approach resulted in some of the most distinctive and individual performances of the piano repertoire ever recorded. And it’s also because the truths that Richter was after were themselves historically mediated ideas: the supposedly timeless qualities of scores by Mozart, Beethoven, or Schubert, say, that are anything but ‘timeless’, and are in fact enmeshed in historical contingencies, let alone the vagaries of published editions and performance practice conditions, and the fact that none of those composers would recognise the piano Richter was using, the way it was tuned (the equal temperament that all our pianos are forced into these days was not a popular choice among musicians until the late 19th century), or the conditions of his concert life.

As Zuzana Ružicková revealed in Mahan Esfahani’s radio documentary Mission Harpsichord, Richter’s performances of Prokofiev’s piano sonatas (the 9th of which is dedicated to him), were completely different in their austerity and objectivity from the romanticism and freedom of Prokofiev’s own playing of these pieces. Who was right, composer or ‘interpreter’?

All of which pseudo-philosophical dancing on the head of a pin is frankly brushed aside by the power of Richter’s playing. It’s precisely Richter’s certainty, his integrity, the fact that music seems to speak with an Olympian objectivity at the same time as an impossible-sounding lyricism and sustained tone (listen to his extraordinarily slow yet convincing Schubert sonatas), without ever a shred of indulgence in virtuosity or sensuality for its own sake, that makes these performances definitively Richterian. That’s the point about his musicianship: its strength of conviction and imagination makes you believe when you’re listening to him that this really is the way the music has to go, that what you’re hearing truly is the fundamental core of these pieces.”

- Tom Service, THE GUARDIAN, 18 March, 2015