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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat, D960 [46:51]
Impromptu D899 No. 4 [7:26]
Piano Sonata No. 13 in A, D664 [24:47]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
rec. live 10 June 1956 (unknown tracks), 10-11 June 1962 (unknown tracks), 24 September 1972 (D899, D960), unknown locations
PRAGA DIGITALS PRD/DSD 350 063 [79:04]

One knows what to expect from Richter playing Schubert: great poetry, a tone which glows with melancholy beauty and slow speeds. That’s exactly what one gets here, with a very affecting and very long (47 minutes) sonata in B flat D960 and a similar but more youthful and thus more innocent sonata in A, D664. It’s Praga’s presentation that gives me cause for concern.
 
First, at least once in D960 there is an unpleasant effect where, for very brief flashes - less than a second - the piano seems to “ricochet” across the concert hall. Digital noise reduction has been used to dampen both the audiences’ coughing and Richter’s playing. Thus there is almost no tape hiss, which makes the piano’s faded sound feel anachronistic. The documentation lists no recording locations and specifies a date for only the B flat sonata, giving two other dates but not saying what they’re for. Richter’s online discography says the Impromptu was recorded on the same day, which is confusing, because if true this means Praga lists two dates six years apart for the sonata in A. Most distressingly, every time I attempted to load the CD in my computer, the computer froze. There was no problem with playback on other machines.
 
If you want to hear Richter playing Schubert live, there are better places to start.
 
Brian Reinhart 
 

Masterwork Index: Schubert sonata 13 ~~ Sonata 21


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