Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Franz Schubert; Frédéric Chopin; Franz Liszt - Piano Works (Sviatoslav Richter)


Composer: Franz Schubert; Frédéric Chopin; Franz Liszt
  • (01-03) Schubert - 6 Moments musicaux, D. 780
  • (04-06) Schubert - Piano Sonata No. 6 in E minor, D. 566
  • (07) Chopin - Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60
  • (08-18) Liszt - Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178

Sviatoslav Richter, piano
Date: 1964 (4-6), 1965 (1-3), 1966
Label: BBC Legends



These recordings were made in the years when Richter was a frequent visitor to Aldeburgh, both as performer and personal friend of Britten and Pears. It was a relationship that bore much fruit, from the recording of the Britten Piano Concerto, composer conducting, Richter at the keyboard, to the pianist’s late excursion into opera production in his Turn of the Screw of 1984.

These Aldeburgh Festival performances from the mid-1960s, though not wonderful in terms of their sound quality, are nevertheless a splendid addition to the catalogue. The principal item is, of course, the Liszt B minor Sonata, but the other works are full of fascination and musical wonders. He shapes the three Schubert Moments Musicaux with sensitivity and intimacy, though his tempo for no.6 in Ab is far too slow for my taste. The marking is Allegretto, yet Richter plays it as an Adagio, and burdens it with perhaps too much emotional intensity. The less well-known E minor Sonata reveals many beauties, and the limpid textures of the Chopin Barcarolle are perfectly realised.

But it is Richter’s reading of the Liszt Sonata in B minor – surely the composer’s greatest masterpiece – that is truly remarkable. His spacing of the music gives it such intensity of contrast, and allows the symphonic dimensions and arguments to be fully appreciated. The ‘big tune’, with its throbbing left-hand accompaniment, is invested with ecstasy and power at each of its appearances – and how Liszt must have been tempted to repeat this great theme far more often than he does - while the twisted fugue subject has a Mephistophelean menace. The only drawback is the noisy Aldeburgh audience – such a lot of coughing and sneezing for June! Was it a cold Summer in 1966?

As mentioned above, the recording quality is not great; the piano sounds very ‘domestic’, though this has the compensating effect of enhancing the sense of intimacy, consistent with the almost hypnotic concentration of Richter’s playing. Most listeners will want a fine modern recording of the Liszt for repeated hearings; Pletnev on DG and Demidenko on Hyperion, for example, are both superb. But the sense of a special live occasion is so strong in this recording, and Richter is simply not to be missed.

-- Gwyn Parry-Jones, MusicWeb International

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Franz Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer who was extremely prolific during his short lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the late Classical era and early Romantic era and is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century. His music is characterized by pleasing tunes while still has "a great wealth of technical finesse".


Frédéric Chopin (22 February or 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as one of the leading musicians of his era, whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation". Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest superstars, his association (if only indirect) with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying degrees of historical accuracy.


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.


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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