Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is not just a case of the performer subordinating himself to the composer, but of both united in the service of music's greatest miracle—an entire attitude to life encapsulated in sound.
Richter's Schubert always demands a couple of minutes' acclimatization, I find. It takes that long to register that lack of surface charm is not the point, that something far more vital is being communicated. Precisely what that is cannot be said in words, but it registers with me as a kind of all-embracing stoicism, an immense inner strength which by the end of a four-movement sonata cycle somehow seems to transfer itself to the listener. This is not just a case of the performer subordinating himself to the composer, but of both
united in the service of music's greatest miracle—an entire attitude to life encapsulated in sound. Those who find Richter untrue to Schubert may in a sense be right, for he is being true to something bigger than both of them, and to criticize points of style is to bounce peas off a wall (as was first said, I think, of attempts to bring socialism to the Russian peasants in the 1870s).
...The sheer standard of accuracy throughout these recitals is exceptional, and the pleasure lies not just in the fact of nothing going wrong, but in the elation of sensing that nothing can possibly go wrong, so firmly is Richter in the groove. The finales of both the A major and A minor Sonatas are the most obvious examples, and their surges of energy seem to arise inevitably from the inner explorations of the previous movements. The A major begins as though someone has dared Richter to give the slowest performance ever; but this is light years away from the perversity of ... well, never mind who, and by the end you wonder how you ever found it strange to begin with. Does it seem that the slow movement has too much philosophical weight on its shoulders? Not after its breathtaking central revelation of the light beyond darkness it doesn't. Is the world-weariness of the opening paragraph of the A minor an anachronistic stylistic imposition? If so, long live anachronism, and down with style. A fiery accelerando tops off the A flat Impromptu, provoking another raucous bravo and concluding one of the finest piano recordings I have had the privilege of reviewing.
-- Gramophone [10/1992]
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