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Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Sviatoslav Richter Archives Vol. 2

Scherzo No. 1 in B minor Op. 20 [9.22]
Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor Op. 31 [9.02]
Scherzo No. 3 in C# minor Op. 39 [7.00]
Scherzo No. 4 in E major Op. 54 [11.09]
Polonaise – Fantasie in A-flat major Op. 61 [11.24]
Barcarolle in F# major Op. 60 [8.55]
Waltz in A-flat major Op. 34 No. 1 [5.19]
Waltz in A minor Op. 34 No. 2 [6.22]
Waltz in F major Op. 34 No. 3 [2.16]
Mazurka in C# minor Op. 63 No. 3 [1.53]
Mazurka in C major Op. 67 No. 3 [1.16]
Mazurka in F major Op. 68 No. 3 [1.11]
Mazurka in A minor Op. Posth No.2 [3.23]
Sviatoslav Richter (Piano)
rec. Opp. 20/31/39/54 Carnegie Hall, New York, 15 April 1965; Op. 61 Warsaw, Poland, 10 November 1954; Op. 60/ 34 Salzburg, Austria, 26 August 1977; Op. 63/67.68/Posth. No 2 Helsinki, Finland, 25 August 1976. ADD
DOREMI DHR – 7724 [78.52]

In Bruno Monsaingeon’s film ‘Richter: The Enigma’, Richter revealed to the camera his dislike of America and his feeling of panic when there. He rarely felt that he played well, and this anxiety can be heard in his early Carnegie Hall recital from the breakthrough tour of America in 1960 (‘Richter Rediscovered’).

By 1965, the year of these Chopin Scherzi performances, Richter seems much more comfortable, and recordings from the series of recitals he gave in April and May show him to be at the absolute peak of his form, combining the wild elemental power of his youth with some of the more poetic and deeply reflective qualities that had begun to emerge. Try to hear the extraordinary Liszt Sonata from 18 May 1965, once available on Philips and now on Palexa.

Here, in the four Chopin Scherzi, we finally have all the visceral excitement and passion missing in the 1977 studio recordings (on Regis), masterly and refined though those are. Twelve years earlier, timings are quicker for all the Scherzi, though that isn’t to say that Richter plays faster throughout. What he does is to highlight more obviously the many-sidedness of these pieces, by playing the Presto sections much faster, and allowing the slow meditative moments all the time in the world. Nowhere is this more evident than in the 1st Scherzo in B Minor, whose furious opening assault (truly Presto con fuoco) transforms into a brooding, heartfelt cry, in Richter’s hands full of expression and freedom, before igniting again. Later, in the molto piu lento, Richter manages, as only he can, almost to suspend time, creating a feeling of motionlessness.

Listen how, in the C# Minor Scherzo, he layers the sound, the descending rippled accompaniments cascading like a fountain; a reminder of the great colourist that he was.

Harold C. Schonberg commented in his review of the concert that these were "interior" performances. Yes. But that’s only part of the story. What is extraordinary to this reviewer is the way in which the playing at times takes on an intimate reverence, full of poetry and the darkest solitude, at other times (the closing bars of the B Minor and C# Minor Scherzi for example) a declamatory and even openly virtuosic approach, one which is a reminder that Richter could still play the showman of his youth.

Occasionally one misses the extra breadth of the studio recordings, as in the opening of the B flat minor Scherzo, which sounds angry and forceful in 1965 and grandly Olympian in 1977, though generally the later accounts feel somewhat too removed and controlled by comparison.

The other performances are all fine, with the Barcarolle and Waltzes available (in better sound) on Orfeo, and some of the Mazurkas a first release, but it is the Chopin Scherzi which you will not want to be without, despite the muffled and slightly disorted sound.

Alex Demetriou



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