Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: No. 3 in C; No. 29 in B?,
No. 1 in G; No. 4 in b; No. 6 in E?
Sviatoslav Richter (pn)
ICA 5064 (80:49)
Issued as a BBC disc, this music was recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall on June 18, 1975. Richter came back to London the next year and played a “Hammerklavier” Sonata at almost the same tempos, but that was, to my ears, more consistently energized, although perhaps less interested in contrast, than in 1975. In the 1975 recording, Richter seems marginally more interested in stressing the sudden shifts in dynamics. Yet I may be exaggerating slightly, and some of the difference may be attributed to differences in the recorded sound. This “Hammerklavier” is powerful, even electric. The first movement doesn’t have the moments of tenderness that Schnabel brought to it. But it is grand and exciting and sounds, though I know Richter thought everything out, even impetuous. That impetuousness is perfect for the Scherzo. It’s hard to imagine the ensuing
played more deliberately or beautifully. In its first bars, Richter seems to be making a complete statement that is nonetheless full of promise, and its unfolding is serious, coherent, and beautiful. It’s a magnificent rendition. But of course it is almost unnecessary to praise Richter, whose fans are legion. He plays the early sonata, op. 2/3, with the same seriousness, and the Bagatelles are a bonus. I don’t know what to tell readers who already have his other recordings of the piano sonatas, except that these recordings are sublime, and well recorded. (So are the coughs.) I unhesitatingly recommend this lengthy recital to anyone else.
FANFARE: Michael Ullman