> Richter: The Last Concert [CF]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Three Mozart Piano Concertos

Piano Concerto No. 1 in F K.337
Piano Concerto No. 5 in D K.175
Piano Concerto No. 18 in Bb K.456
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Japan Shinsei Symphony Orchestra
Rudolf Barshai (conductor)
Recorded at Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan, 3 March 1993
LAUREL RECORD LR-902 [74.53]

Emil Gilels made the famous comment to his admirers after he was allowed to play in the West, wait until you hear Richter. That took until 1960 when he was 45 years of age before he did indeed take the public and his musician colleagues by storm. He was a shy, diffident man, unaccountably nervous when playing in public, but whose sound remains unique to this day. He was almost as bad as Michelangeli for cancelling concerts at the last minute and there were several works which he declined to play, such as Beethoven's Emperor and Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto, or even complete sets of a composer's works. His choice of conductor as accompanist was soon whittled down to two, Benjamin Britten and Rudolf Barshai. The former was not only a personal friend but also the provider of the opportunity to perform chamber music from piano duos to concertos at Aldeburgh. This gives a clue to the choice of three Mozart concertos here for that composer was not one readily associated with Richter (though he also recorded Nos.22 in Eb K.482 and 25 in C K.503), let alone such early works.

These concertos were written when Mozart was eleven, seventeen and twenty-eight respectively, so considering his brief life they represent all but his most mature years. The first concerto is a particular delight, tuneful from start to finish (but then what of Mozart isn't?) and innocently precocious. The music all speaks for itself, but listen out for delicious horn and woodwind playing by this Japanese orchestra. The sound is a little over-bright and resonant but Richter's playing is clean, incisive and lyrical. The absence of a cadenza in the finale of No.5 leaves an unwelcome hole but otherwise these are revelatory performances. The title The Last Concert is somewhat misleading for Richter lived another four years, a more accurate description would be his Last Recorded Concert with Orchestra. He was a deeply sensitive artist, intense in approach and a visionary who now is sorely missed, and the like of which will probably never be seen or heard again.

Christopher Fifield

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