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Sviatoslav Richter

By Joseph E. Romero

ARIS, 14 November 1997 - Pianist Sviatoslav Richter died in Moscow on 1 August after suffering a heart attack at the age of 82. The Ukrainian-born pianist of German descent was one of the greatest musicians of the Soviet era, and for many, one of the 20th century's greatest pianists.

Richter came to the attention of western publics in the 1960s, preceded by Emil Gilels's accounts of his contemporary's legendary feats at the keyboard. Although Richter was a late developer (not beginning serious tuition until 1937 at the age of 22 with the eminent pedagogue Heinrich Neuhaus, who also taught Gilels) he still went on to become one of the most unusual artists the classical music world has ever known. In fact, Richter had that rarest of musical gifts: he kept you listening long after the music stopped.

In Europe, Richter was positively lionized, notably in Germany and France where he had a second home and spent considerable time. Liturgical devotion to the text, an uncanny mixture of artistic genius, and iconoclastic behavior made Richter the leading draw in Paris. After all, the idea that a pianist will pack up his instrument in a van and set off for who knows where, stop because he likes the look of a wheat field in Touraine, then notifying a couple of locals and giving a legendary performance in a barn appeals to the strong individualistic streak in every Frenchman. Of such escapades, the Festival of La Grange de Meslay was born.

Build your Best of Richter collection on the Net

Few pianists have been such a lucrative target for the pirate's craft as Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997). His reluctance to make studio recordings after 1970 has resulted in an estimated 200 CD titles, mostly of live broadcast material of varying provenance and sound quality marketed without Richter's agreement. There are innumerable references to Richter on the Internet, however the two most thorough are Paul Geffen's Richter Discography and Ates Tanin's Recorded Richter.

Connoisseurs of the great pianist and sophisticated collectors may navigate with some skill in this labyrinth, but the average classical music listener would find Richter's discography mind-boggling.

Voracious discophiles have no doubt already painstakingly catalogued - with the aid of a relational data base - their existing Richter collection and established interpretation priorities. For others who never had the opportunity to hear Richter live or stay abreast of authorized and pirate recordings, the task ahead is rather daunting. Building a coherent Richter CD collection will require both knowledge of Richter's pianism and determination to wade through a discography cluttered with unauthorized and official recordings.

That is why Klassiknet editors thought it would be interesting and certainly more useful to readers to draw on the collective experience of piano buffs on the Internet to establish an ideal Richter discography. Net travellers are invited to submit their favorite Richter interpretations on CD or LP, with or without a brief commentary, in the language of their choice (English, francais, Deutsch). LP recommendations must be available commercially and accompanied by a distribution source.

If you would like to participate in the Best of Richter Net Discography, please submit the electronic form below. Please state your name, location, as well as giving the CD or LP reference and date of the Richter recording. Authorized and unathorized recommendations on CD or LP are equally welcome as long as they are available commercially. Contributions will be accepted until 10 December and the final list published on 15 December 1997.

Important : Please indicate if you would like your E-mail address published along with your selection so that other contributors can communicate with you directly.

Here are a few Klassiknet favourites. We look forward to your contributions.

Sofia Recital, 1958
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Philips 454 167 2

Beethoven: collection of piano sonatas recorded live in Prague between 1959 and 1986. Available as a set or seperately on Praga/harmonia mundi.

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas op. 57 "Appassionata"; op. 28 "Tempest"; op. 31 No 3
Praga/harmonia mundi 254 021

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas op. 106 "Hammerklavier"; op. 90; op. 101
Praga/harmonia mundi 254 022

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas op. 26 "Funeral March"; op. 2 No. 3; op. 10 No. 3
Praga/harmonia mundi 254 020

Beethoven: Piano Sonata op. 110; Diabelli Variations op. 120
Praga/harmonia mundi 254 023

Schubert: Piano Sonatas in C minor D. 958 (1973) ; in B flat major D. 960 (1972)
Olympia Compact Discs (U.K.) OCD 335

Schubert: Piano Sonatas in G, D. 894; B, D. 575; C, D. 840; (1979)
Philips: 438 483-2 (2 CD)

Schubert: Wanderer Phantasie, D. 760 (Paris, 1963)
EMI 7 64429 2

Berg: Kammerkonzert (Paris, 1977)
Oleg Kagan, violinist
Sviatoslav Richter, piano
Instrumental Ensemble of the Moscow Conservatory
Youri Nicolaïevsky, director
EMI 7 64429 2

Schumann: Novellette op 21 No 1 (1959); Toccata op. 7 (1959); Waldszenen op. 28 (1957)
Deutsche Grammophon (The Originals) 447 440-2

Schumann: Phantasie, op. 17
(London, Abbey Road Studios 1961)
EMI 7 64429 2

Prokoviev: Piano Sonatas No. 2, 6, 9
Praga/harmonia mundi 250015

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 5 (1959)
Warsaw Philharmonic
Witold Rowicki, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon (The Originals) 449 744-2

Rachmaninoff: selected Etudes tableaux (1983) and Préludes from op.23 & 32 (1971)
Originally recorded by Ariola/Eurodisc. Now licensed and available from Olympia Compact Discs in Britain.
OCD 337

Scriabin: Sonata No. 5
Deutsche Grammophon 423 573-2

Liszt: Piano Concertos No. 1 & 2 (1961)
London Symphony Orchestra
Kirill Kondrashin, conductor
Philips 446 200-2

Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor
Philips 438 620-2

Brahms: Violin Sonatas No. 2 (Moscow, 1972) & 3 (Moscow, 1968)
David Oistrakh, violin
Sviatoslav Richter, piano
Melodyia/BMG 74321 34181 2

Shostakovich: Violin Sonata op.134 (Moscow, 1969)
David Oistrakh, violin
Sviatoslav Richter, piano
Melodyia/BMG 74321 34182 2

Submit your contribution

Go to the review of Bruno Monsaingeon's video and book about Sviatoslav Richter (9 September 1998)

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