Sviatoslav Richter in the 1950s: Volume 7
CD 1
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Rondo in C Op.51 No.1 (1783) [4:46]
Rondo in G Op.51 No.2 (1783) [7:35]
Variations in E flat Op.35 Eroica [20:42] Sonata No.12 in A flat Op.26 (1800-01) [17:09]
Bagatelle in F Op.33 No.3 (1801-02) [2:05]
Sonata No.27 in E minor Op.90 (1814) [10:47]
CD 2
Variations on a Theme of Diabelli Op.120 (1822-23) [43:52]
Variations on an Original Theme in F, Op.34 (1802) [12:30]
Variations on the Turkish March from ĎThe Ruins of Athensí in D, Op.76 (1809) [5:42]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
rec. 29 January 1951, Moscow (CD 1 and CD 2 - Diabelli Variations); 23 June 1950, Moscow (remainder)
PARNASSUS PACD 96046-47 [62:53 + 62:04]
 
Leslie Gerber and his Parnassus label have certainly shown constant devotion to Richter these many years. This latest volume is the seventh in the series and its existence is owed to the anonymous generosity of an individual who made the recordings available for publication. There are two Moscow recitals, one from June 1953 and the other from January 1951. Each disc lasts just over an hour.
 
A number of these surviving performances are valuable not least because, despite the many examples that exist on disc, whether studio, live or private, these early recitals mark a first staging post in the appreciation of his art. For example, I am not aware that the two Rondos survive in performances earlier than the 1980s, though Iíd wager in years to come that other recitals emerge from the intervening years. For now there is a three decade lacuna. Similarly my earliest prior experience of the Eroica variations was from as late as the 1968 performance, once on the AS label. There are other examples from 1970 Ė from NYC on Intaglio, from Venice and Salzburg. But, again, this Moscow one is by some way the earliest so far documented to have survived. Itís a characteristically driving affair, sometimes a little too much so for the ultimate in characterisation and balance. The recording remains very clear and the audience is remarkably quiet. The A flat sonata Op.26 is better known from later live recitals Ė not least Prague in 1959, the two New York efforts the following year and several others. This 1951 performance is worthy to be judged alongside them. Thereís a bit of confusion in the notes regarding the opus number of the E minor sonata (itís not Op.79 but 90) but thatís hardly relevant to the playing which is convincing, despite a few slips.
 
Disc two preserves a continuation of this recital and part of the June 1950 recital. The disc focuses on the Diabelli variations, adding the Variations on an Original Theme from June 1950 and encoring with yet another variation Ė this time on a Turkish March: thematic programme building with a vengeance. Again, this Diabelli marks a quantum leap backwards in the pianistís discography if the 1970 Venice performance represents the hitherto earliest survivor. Prague and Amsterdam in 1986 also marked late examples. This youthful, fiery rendition is sweeping, or gaunt, and dramatic, with sufficient breadth to ensure unfluctuating fascination with both tonal nuance and rhythmic incision. The Variations on an Original Theme is taut and leonine.
 
Altogether this exclusive focus on Beethoven nourishes Richterís early discography significantly.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
This exclusive focus on Beethoven nourishes Richterís early discography significantly.