P0047. SVIATOSLAV RICHTER: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Book. I (Bach). (England) 2-Russia Revelation 20003. Long Out-of-print, Final Copy! - 5032636200030
“Richter’s Bach holds an unassailable place in the pantheon. His clarity of polyphonic texturing combines with insight into the structural flow to produce the illusion of total identity with the music’s inner world.
Revelation do not claim these as live recordings, and certainly the level of accuracy suggests that they cannot be. Yet if they are not, it is curious that several tracks are accompanied by steady (though unobtrusive) coughing, that the first Prelude comes with the faint but unmistakable distraction of a telephone ringing, and that the G major Fugue has a couple of badly scrambled bars near the end (from 1'55'') which cry out for a retake. Above all there is an edgy intensity to much of the playing which suggests a live situation and which is not to be found on Richter’s other accounts listed above.
Those feel generally more reflective, less extreme. On the new CDs Richter’s concentration in the slowest fugues is almost fanatically fierce, the fastest preludes (C minor, B flat major) are so hard-driven as to be almost obsessional, and some fugues (such as the C minor) have a staccato peckiness that might be better suited to Shostakovich. At such times I turned with relief to my much treasured and little hailed Feinberg set. Yet the depth and breadth of Richter’s understanding generally make niggles about style seem nugatory. In the E flat minor Prelude, for instance, he weighs every chord for its meaning, not in a coldly premeditated way, but simply so as to take us on an absorbing journey through the product of a great musical mind.
The comparative Richter versions are in fact the same recording, made in the Klessheim Castle in Salzburg in July 1970, where the sound is superior, avoiding the considerable acoustic fuzz on Revelation, and the Bosendorfer instrument, placed in a generous but not overpowering ambience, is far more beguiling. By comparison the sound image on the new CDs is awkwardly recessed and constricted, and the piano itself tends towards tinniness. I wouldn’t have missed the extra intensity on the Revelation discs for the world.”
- GRAMOPHONE, June, 1998