The more time elapses since the death of great artists the more
precious their memory and their recorded legacy becomes. That
statement is particularly exemplified in relation to the two musicians
represented on this record. Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997), who
gave his first public recital in Odessa at the age of 19, was
a pupil of Heinrich Neuhaus at the Moscow Conservatory, and gained
a huge reputation in the USSR. His status proceeded ahead of him
to the West where a visit was eagerly awaited and where he finally
played in 1960. Richter, however, was notoriously choosy, not
only about the piano he played but the venues he played in, preferring
small intimate halls rather than large ones. He decided against
playing in the USA ever again after an extensive tour there in
1970. This only served to make his appearances more anticipated
than ever and it was at places such as Aldeburgh and a few venues
in France and Italy that had the privilege of welcoming him, always
to huge acclaim. One could say that he was one of those rare people
who became a legend in his own lifetime. He was a prodigious concert-giver
on his own terms, however, and gave a staggering 91 concerts in
4 months during a massive tour by car from Leningrad to Vladivostok
(about 9,000 miles!).
Oleg Kagan (1946-1990)
was born in Sakhalin but was brought up in Latvia until his
family moved to Moscow where he was able to study with David
Oistrakh. Kagan collected prizes with ease: the Enescu competition
in Bucharest (1964), Sibelius, Helsinki (1965), Tchaikovsky,
Moscow (1966) and Bach in Leipzig (1968). Kagan became a regular
partner to Richter from 1969 who said of him that he had ‘a
true understanding of Mozart’.
The music represented
here is supreme, and so are the performances. Both of these
artists had an almost uncanny relationship that resulted in
playing of the highest order. Richter himself, who could be
very self-critical said of the Haydn and Brahms on this disc
‘This was an extremely successful concert and it really should
come out on record’; we are lucky that someone took notice!
An interesting, general comment Richter made about Haydn was
‘Dear Haydn, how I love you! But other pianists? They’re rather
lukewarm towards you which is a great shame.’ (see: Sviatoslav
Richter – Notebooks and Conversations by Bruno Monsaingeon,
Faber 1998/2001). His love for Haydn certainly shows in his
committed playing in the sonata on this record. Indeed this
same sonata was played by Richter in public no less than 36
times and was one of 19 sonatas by Haydn that Richter programmed.
It is largely due to him that these piano sonatas are back
in fashion today.
of Mozart’s violin sonatas urged in a magazine in April 1783
that both amateurs and professionals should try them for themselves.
They were sure that this would prove that what they said about
the sonatas was true, namely that they were rich in new ideas
and showed the ‘great musical genius of their composer’ …
with a ‘violin accompaniment that is so cleverly combined
with the piano part that both instruments are continuously
employed’. It seems such a shame that people in those days
either had to be fortunate enough to play instruments themselves
or to hear such works in performance in order to enjoy them.
By contrast we are so incredibly lucky to have been born after
the development of recording and so can enjoy them anywhere,
anytime. The performance here of the Mozart sonata is superlative
in its beauty with the two artists creating a feeling of being
totally at one with each other; the second movement is a perfect
example of this and is extremely moving. At the end of the
work, which was recorded live, there is a cry of delight from
one audience member and no wonder!
his violin sonata No.1 with his great friend, the violinist
Joseph Joachim in mind. The liner-notes indicate that Richter
first played this sonata in February 1985 whilst this recording
is from March the same year during the final series of concerts
that he and Kagan gave; Kagan died prematurely aged only 44
in 1990 while organizing a festival in Germany. If the implication
is that Richter had only recently learned the work when this
recording was made it is all the more remarkable for it sounds
for all the world as if he had always been playing it, such
is the richness in the playing of both artists.
This is a disc
to cherish, particularly since the sterling work done by Paul
Arden-Taylor in remastering the original has made it feel
as fresh as if it had been recorded yesterday.