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You've seen the movie, now read the book

Early last week, Editions Van de Velde in Tours, France published Richter - Ecrits, conversations (in French), which includes Richter's monologue, Monsaingeon's interviews with the pianist as well as fascinating extracts from Richter's private notebooks documenting 30 years of artistic activity, photos, the pianist's personal répertoire list and a chronology of concert performances and major events between 1934 and 1995.

In fact, the book predates the film. Richter and Francis Van de Velde agreed to a biography in August 1995. The Van de Velde family were close friends of Richter for over 30 years and co-founders with him of the Fêtes musicales en Touraine whose principal venue was a barn, the Grange de Meslay, near Tours. Because of a heart condition and a more recent knee accident, he feared he would no longer be able to play. "Concerts were his only means of revenue", said Van de Velde from his office in Tours. "Richter and his wife lived like Bohemians. When they needed money, he gave a concert."

Richter was appalled by what had been published in the press about his alleged political convictions and eccentricities, not to mention concert cancellations. With Van de Velde, the pianist and his wife might have final say. When Nina Dorliac brought Richter's private notebooks to the attention of the French publisher, Van de Velde contacted Bruno Monsaingeon to write the book, "the only person capable of accomplishing this task, because of his knowledge of Russian and music."

Monsaingeon had approached Richter several times in the past about a film, but the pianist always refused. "Richter always fled images", said Ursula Van de Velde, wife of the publisher. "I am not sure of his total complicity here. For me, it is a bit of a violation."

"But Richter wasn't dupe to the presence of a camera", asserted Monsieur Van de Velde. "He knew he could be filmed, and accepted, but he didn't want to see it." A tape recorder and a discreetly hidden camera were used during Monsaingeon's conversations with Richter.

Richter - Ecrits, conversations is a co-production of Editions Van de Velde, ARTE Editions and Actes Sud. The first 5000 copies are accompanied by a CD of unpublished Richter material and went on sale in France on 1 September. The Paris department store Galeries Lafayette will host a book signing and photo exhibition with Bruno Monsaingeon on Saturday 12 September. While serious discussions are already underway in Japan, Editions Van de Velde has yet to find partners for publication in English or German.

Meanwhile on the Net, Boston-based Richter specialist Paul Geffen, whose Internet discography of Richter's recordings and tapes is essential for anyone with a serious interest in the artist's recorded history, has recently created a mailing list devoted exclusively to Richter. One can lurk quietly or exchange information and opinions about the pianist and his artistic legacy with enthusiasts world-wide.

Joseph E. Romero

Related Internet sites:

Past Klassiknet Feature on Richter and Reader Contributions

ARTE, the Franco-German culture television station has organised a contest where you can win CDs. For aditional information, full story and photo gallery, please visit:-

Sviatoslav Richter Mailing List:

Paul Geffen Richter Discography:

Recorded Richter by Dr. Ates Tanin

Try your hand at Klassiknet's Richter Quiz to win a Video or the Book! Click to go to quiz.

Contribute to the Best of Richter Net Collection.

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