thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded
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Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Piano Concerto in G minor, Op, 33 [38:32] Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasy, D.720 'Wanderer' (rev. Badura-Skoda) [20:45]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Bayerischen Staatsorchester München/Carlos Kleiber
rec. 18-21 June 1976, Bürgerbräukeller, Munich; 11-18 February 1963, Salle Wagram, Paris (Schubert) ADD WARNER CLASSICS 5668952 [59:30]
Dvořák’s Piano Concerto has long been overshadowed by his Violin and Cello Concertos, yet it was a favourite of Sviatoslav Richter. Neither he nor his conductor here liked to visit the recording studio, so we are doubly blessed to have the pair of them in this account, especially as Richter is on top form, playing with a passion and spontaneity which belie the studio conditions. Kleiber provides equally inspired accompaniment, exhorting the orchestra to match Richter in verve and attack.
Richter always played the original version as Dvořák wrote it rather than the revision made in by Vilém Kurz in 1919 which displaced it for a long time; it is fearsomely demanding with cascades and roulades of notes against a background of swiftly succeeding folk-inspired themes, typical of the composer’s idiom. There is none of the tensile strength and steely purpose we hear in Brahms’ piano concertos and few shadows in the music; this harks back to a more discursive, even rambling Romantic tradition which seems often sound extemporary in style before the re-introduction of what is often a fairly obvious and elementary melodic figure. Richter makes a virtue of that shapelessness, revelling in the technical challenges and emphasising their outlandish demands on the pianist.
The long first movement opens with a broad, bold, heroic theme and the piano replies, ornamenting the rejoinder with arpeggios and a succession of flourishes of the utmost complexity until we reach a thunderous cadenza for the piano whose difficulties Richter takes in his stride. The Andante, by contrast, is predominately dreamy and introspective, then sternly dramatic; Richter relishes the changing moods. The con fuoco finale is all drive and bounce, featuring some astonishingly fluid prestidigitation from Richter, his artistry and Dvořák’s elaborations transmuting a simple tune into a tour de force.
Schubert's 'Wanderer Fantasia' is a virtuoso showpiece, one which Richter frequently performed and which suited his powerful technique and assertive musical personality - although he did not crave adulation, claiming: “I don't play for the audience, I play for myself.” It’s a pity that the sound is rather dry and muffled but at least that helps prevent him sounding clattery. However, in the Adagio Richter tames his natural aggression and exuberance to produce playing of the utmost lyricism; in the bipolar section concluding the movement, time stands still in the right hand while the left chunters away ominously; magical. The Presto is as fleet and insouciant as you could wish and the Allegro finale astonishingly intense.
What a double bill; there is nothing else like it on disc. Ralph Moore
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