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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Recital

Nocturne, opus 10, nr. 1; Waltz Scherzo in a minor, Opus 7; Humoresque in G, opus 10 nr 2, Capriccioso is B-flat, opus 19, nr. 5, Chanson triste, opus 40, nr 2; Waltz in A-flat, opus 40, nr.8; Romance in f minor, Opus 5, Romance in F, opus 51, nr 5; Un poco di Chopin, opus 72 nr. 15; L’espiègle, opus 72 nr. 12; Réverie du soir, opus 19 nr 1; Menuetto-scherzoso, opus 51 nr. 1, Valse de salon, opus 51 nr. 1; Méditation, Opus 72, nr. 5. From "The Seasons," Nr. 5, May. White Nights; Number 6, June, Barcarolle; Number 11, November, Troika; Number 1, January, By the fireplace.
Sviatoslav Richter, piano

Recorded in Studio 3 of the Bavarian Radio, 1983. Engineered by Wolfgang Karreth DDD
Licensed from Olympia
REGIS RRC 1093 [79'58]

It has always been a wonder to me why so few pianists program Tchaikovsky’s solo piano works. Granted, most of the pieces he left us are brief, somewhat sentimental and not overly virtuosic. Nonetheless, they possess an innocent charm and an acute sense of melodic invention. I had high hopes, then, when I received this disc of the late, great Sviatoslav Richter playing a lengthy recital of Tchaikovsky morsels.

One can hardly find fault in Richter’s playing. 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. I was particularly fond of the opening Nocturne in F and the wonderful Humoresque in G major, opus ten, number 2.

What is disappointing about this collection is the overly terse early-digital sound, and the maddening need to change the volume on the stereo between each four-minute piece. Obviously this music was recorded to be packaged on one disc. To have such a huge swing in recording levels between such brief works is just plain annoying. If you leave the volume at one setting, you are blasted out of your living room by half the program, and you’ll miss the other half. Likewise, the sometimes brittle, sometimes distant sound of the piano is off-putting.

The big Penguin Guide endorsement sticker on the jewel box led me to have even less faith in that publication after listening. Regardless, this is a disc that I can still recommend with only a couple of caveats. 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. This is a disc that makes a nice alternative to the onslaught of Chopin and Rachmaninov discs that seem to flow forth like water from the record labels.

The booklet notes are informative, and give us some interesting insights into both performer and music. It would thrill me no end though to read a set of program notes that were more than just a blow-by-blow description of the music written at the level of a college freshman. A clever turn of phrase, perhaps? How about a flowing narrative? Surely there are some talented writers out there who can say something interesting and intelligent about a group of musical works.

Buy this at Regis’s ultra-bargain price.

Kevin Sutton


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