If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sviatoslav Richter - December Nights (1985)


"December is the time of our permanent association with Richter. We occasionally meet him in the course of the year, but during the festival have a chance to enjoy everyday contacts. It is really great to participate in rehearsals and concerts together, and to share excitement and concern for each other. We took part in all the festivals which provided new incentives for expanding our repertoire. 

The most memorable were the two events featuring Britten's operas. Richter is infatuated with the opera. He has a keen sense of the stage, perhaps because he has been allied with theatre since childhood. Now he is a true connoisseur particularly fond of drama. Endowed with a phenomenal memory he keeps in mind the minutest details of all the productions of the Moscow Art Theatre from prewar years onwards, and remembers the names of all the actors, even those allotted minor roles. When listening to operatic music, he invariably imagines how he would stage that particular opera. 

More than once Richter has mentioned that his dream is to produce Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. If his plan realizes (and we all hope it will), we shall, no doubt, witness a masterpiece. Richter's modesty is in a class by itself. Addressing stage designer Boris Messerer or director Boris Pokrovsky, he would usually say: "Well, I wouldn't know chalk from cheese in this matter..." Yet, in a moment it is clear that he knows all about it. Boris Pokrovsky saw through this trick at once and suggested: "Look, why do you just play the piano? You should join our company, let's work together." Having an aversion for big words, Richter loathes being referred to as "the greatest pianist" or the like. But he was evidently pleased with that remark of Pokrovsky, though he tried to conceal it."

"If asked to describe the December Nights, I would simply say, "It's Richter." Any festival must have a unifying artistic idea. Should such an idea be lacking, any event, no matter how prestigious and well-organized ,will wane in the course of time as a result of its spiritual scantiness and inadequacy. What Richter does is quite a different matter. Take, for example, the annual forum in the French town of Tours embracing well-known masters and novices of various ages and styles, or the December Nights. His aim is not to present newfangled or deservedly forgotten works, or to dazzle the public and the musicians. I feel this with particular acuteness, because owing to the festival and my appearances with Richter I included new works in my repertoire which under normal circumstances I would never have thought of performing. 

The December Nights are the embodiment of the artist's eternal quest for perfection (in the words of the Soviet poet Nikolai Zabolotsky, "the soul must work ceaselessly"), and of the steps of his- agonizing ascent to the ideal all his own. A hundred per cent efficiency from each-such is the festival's main principle. Long before the event actually starts its programme is deliberated down to the minutest detail. 

The project is after all based on our enthusiasm kindled by Richter, the core of the whole enterprise, his inexhaustible imagination, enormous zeal and dedicatedness to Art. Even arguments as to how to arrange chairs on the stage, how to achieve an effect of a hoar-frosted window, and what is to be hung on the backdrop-a violin or a looking-glass-are not just intellectual freaks. Any touch, no matter how unobtrusive, serves to enhance the distinct atmosphere of each concert. As a result, the overall impression is, on the one hand, that of homely cosiness and unpretentious music-making, and, on the other, of festivity and elation. In fact, so great is the musicians' enthusiasm that it comes over the footlights to the listeners. 

Today it is hard to imagine Moscow's music scene without the December Nights. A chamber festival held in a small auditorium not originally meant for music - making has turned into the culmination of the season. There is some mystery in it, isn't there? It is with great joy that for five years running I have planned for December no recitals or guest tours of my own. On December nights I am busy."

R. Schumann - Blumenstucke in D flat major op.19 - Sviatoslav Richter,
R. Schumann - from Piano Trio No 1 in D minor op.63 - Langsam, Mit Feuer (Oleg Kagan, Natalia Gutman, Sviatoslav Richter)
F. Schubert - from Winterreise D. 911 - "Der Sturmische Morgen", "Tauschung", Der Wegweiser (Peter Schreier, Sviatoslav Richter)
R. Schumann - from Marchen Bilder op.113 - Lebhaft, Rasch (Yury Bashmet, Sviatoslav Richter)
F. Chopin - from Sonata for Cello & Piano in G minor op.65 - Largo, Finale: Allegro (Natalia Gutman, Sviatoslav Richter)
F. Schubert - from Duo for Piano and Violin in A major D. 574 - Allegro vivace - (Oleg Kagan, Sviatoslav Richter)
R. Schumann - from Bilder aus Osten "6 Impromptus" op.66 (Sviatoslav Richter, Lyudmila Berlinskaya)

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