Friday, April 14, 2017

Franz Liszt; Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Concertos; Piano Sonatas (Sviatoslav Richter)


Composer: Franz Liszt; Ludwig van Beethoven
  • (01-04) Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, S. 124
  • (05-08) Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, S. 125
  • (09-11) Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14 No. 2
  • (12-13) Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49 No. 1
  • (14-15) Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 20 in G major, Op. 49 No. 2

Sviatoslav Richter, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
Kirill Kondrashin, conductor (1-8)

Date: 1961 (1-8), 1963 (9-15)
Label: Philips




For a pianist purported to be microphone-shy it’s ironic how many of Sviatoslav Richter’s greatest recordings emanated from the studio. His fabled 1961 Liszt Concertos are cases in point. Here they receive their finest sonic incarnations yet. Although there’s more tape hiss than before, you hear a wider range of orchestral timbre, more dynamic heft, plus intensified accentuation and note attacks. It’s as if we’re looking at an original Van Gogh still life as opposed to a reproduction, however excellent the latter might be. As a result, the brass sonorities gain pungency and the piano tone acquires more roundness and bloom without losing one iota of its cutting edge. Best of all, the performances still amaze after all these years. Richter’s transcendental musicianship and technique manage to weave the music’s febrile virtuosity and lyrical rhetoric into a mesmerizing whole. For his part, Kondrashin invokes the spirit and aesthetic of Toscanini, eliciting gaunt, stinging ensemble work and galvanizing rhythmic precision from the London Symphony musicians.

Three Beethoven Sonatas fill out the disc. The two Op. 49 pieces and the Op. 14 No. 2 G major sonata stem from a 1963 Paris session, from which only the Op. 14 No. 1 and Op. 22 sonatas have previously appeared on CD (in Philips’ Authorized Richter Edition). Richter borders on glibness as he quickly glides through Op. 14 No. 2’s first movement, but his fleet fingers in the second and third project more character. By contrast, Richter trades primary colors for gentle pastels in the Op. 49 works. His lyrical refinement markedly differs from the tauter sobriety of his live 1990s versions included in the aforementioned Richter Edition. Still, Richter fans will be glad to have the Beethoven works on CD. A word of warning: don’t jettison your “Solo” edition of the concertos just yet, for it’s coupled with Richter’s terrific live 1966 Liszt Sonata.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
Older 'SOLO' issue:


Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary. Liszt gained renown in Europe for his virtuosic skill as a pianist and in the 1840s he was considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent composers of the "New German School". Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.


Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 violin concerto, 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, his great Mass the Missa solemnis and an opera, Fidelio. Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of classical music.


Sviatoslav Richter (March 20 [O.S. March 7] 1915 – August 1, 1997) was a Soviet pianist known for the depth of his interpretations, virtuoso technique, and vast repertoire. He is considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. Having learned the fundamentals of music from his father, Richter taught himself the piano and had already given public concerts before entering the Moscow Conservatory in 1937. Richter probably had the largest discography but he disliked the recording process, and most of Richter's recordings originate from live performances.


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