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

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Tchaikovsky Recital - Richter

Pyotr Tchaikovsky(1840 -1893)

created a great number of piano works. These compositions were intended to serve specific purposes and be performed in certain environments.  Works like the First Piano Concerto were created for big concert halls to celebrate solemn moments of Russian history and unify the national spirit.  Miniatures were usually performed at home, in a circle of friends and family.  They are a symbol of the privacy and comfort of many wealthier Russian homes and reflect their style of life in the 19th century.  Though Tchaikovsky's piano miniatures were addressed mostly to nobles and prosperous townsfolk, his music speaks to everyone.  Intimate and sincere, with rich melodies and simple to perform, the music gained great popularity for the composer.

This album combines Tchaikovsky piano miniatures from Op. 5, 7, 10, 19, 40, 51 and 72.

 Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997),

one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century, was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine, into a family of musicians.  His talent was recognized and encouraged from a very early stage.  The Richters soon moved from Zhitomir to Odessa, a provincial city in Southern Ukraine.  Theophil Richter, father of Sviatoslav, was a professor at Odessa Conservatory.  At the same time and in the same city lived also David Oistrakh and Emil Gilels.  By the age of eight Richter played opera scores by Wagner and at age nineteen he gave his first solo piano concert.

    We often hear funny things about Richter.  For example, that his development as a pianist started when 22-year-old Richter first met Heinrich Neuhaus in Moscow.  In fact when Neuhaus listened to Richter's playing he said that there was nothing he could teach him.  Being already an accomplished pianist Richter never passed the exam to enter the Moscow Conservatory as a student.  He was enrolled without examination after Neuhaus listened to his playing.  Can we imagine the same happening at our state music schools which charge 100$ only for applying and where composers and performers are evaluated by accountants according to form-filling instead of personal inspiration and experience?  Indeed, Neuhaus knew that real diplomas are issued in Heaven.

    Richter won the All-Union Competition in 1945 and was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1949. Being a jury member at the First Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 he awarded van Cliburn one hundred points out of possible ten.
    The communist regime kept Soviet artists on a short leash and there was a reason for that.  Too often Soviet artists chose not to return.  The first time Richter was allowed to cross the border with the West was at the end of 1960.  That was his debut in the US with the Second Concerto by Brahms conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.  After that Richter played seven recitals over ten days in Carnegie Hall.  He became an extremely busy performer.  However he also became known for cancellations of his performances at the very last minute.  He tried to avoid travelling by air.  The exhausting life of a travelling concert pianist was not his cup of tea.

    Richter preferred to stay in France and Germany.  The environment around Tours in France reminded him of Zhitomir.  In 1964, Richter founded an annual festival - the "Fetes Musicales en Touraine" at Meslay.  He also established the December Nights Festival which annually takes place at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.

    Richter's repertoire was vast, though the music he performed was selected very consciously.  Besides basic piano repertoire he loved to play sonatas by Schubert and Haydn which evoked delight in his audiences
As time passed Richter's interpretations became more and more rigid and restrained, though each composer was always for him a special world and Richter treated each of them very differently, naturally and easily.  A natural ability to merge different styles and epochs was probably his most impressive talent, though most people first of all valued his unlimited abilities as a virtuoso.

    After 1980, the only light he allowed in the concert hall was focused on the piano and around the same time he stopped playing by heart though his memory was always extraordinary.
    Richter's last concert was in Lubeck, Germany, in March, 1995.  He was eighty years old and in poor health.  On the program were three Haydn Sonatas and Variations by Beethoven.  Richter died in Moscow on August 1, 1997.

Titan. That is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of the pianist Sviatoslav Richter. Not only for the imposing physical presence (Richter frightened the orchestra conductor, Rozhdestvensky) but also because of the way he grasped the keyboard. Was it because he had as professor at the Moscow Conservatory, the famous Heinrich Neuhaus?

One can hardly find fault in Richter’s playing. He unleashes all of his power, with an infallible sense of rhythm.
Direct and warm, these pieces are a part of his soul and he delivers them with just the right combination of technical panache and sentimentality.

It’s rare indeed to get such a broad sampling of Tchaikovsky’s shorter solo piano works, and to have them played by a great Russian pianist like Richter is a bonus.

Sviatoslav Richter, piano Recorded in Studio 3 of the Bavarian Radio, 1983. Engineered by Wolfgang Karreth DDD
Licensed from Olympia

Nocturne op.10 n°1 0:00
Waltz-Scherzo op.7 4:29
Humoresque op.10 n°2 8:45
Capriccioso op.19 n°5 11:25
Chanson triste op.40 n°2 15:20
Waltz op.40 n°8 18:19
Romance op.5 21:39
Romance op.51 n°5 28:16
Un poco di Chopin op.72 n°15 36:59
L'espiègle op.72 n°12 40:25
Rêverie du soir op.19 n°1 42:35
Menuetto-Scherzoso op.51 n°3 46:58
Valse de salon op.51 n°1 51:07
Méditation op.72 n°5 56:12

The Seasons op.37b
May. White Nights 1:01:32
June. Barcarole 1:06:01
November. Troika 1:11:47
January. By the Fireplace 1:14:45


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