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Piano Sonata No.44 in F major Hob. XVI:29 [14:01]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano Sonata No.2 in D minor Op.14 (1912) [19:22]
Légende Op.12 No.6 [3:43]
Visions fugitives Op.22 - Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14,
15, 18 (1915-17) [9:38]
Piano Sonata No.8 in B flat major Op.84 (1939-44)[29:20]
rec. live, Royal Festival Hall, London, 8 July 1961
BBC LEGENDS BBCL4245-2 [75:37]
many BBC Legend recital discs collate broadcast material
recorded from more than one concert a number have retained
their integrity, a policy that – on balance – I tend to
favour. This is one such example, drawing as it does on
a recital given by Richter at the Royal Festival Hall on
8 July 1961. I suppose the clamour for it will be balanced
by the surety that there is so much live Richter at large
that it needs to have a special claim on the collector’s
think one such component is the Haydn Sonata, his sole
public performance of it before the 1990s, so one could
say that interest will accrue given its rarity value. This
is balanced by Prokofiev, a far more obviously stable part
of his repertoire over the years. Another feature that
might grab the listener is the fact that this was Richter’s
it took a modicum of daring back then to start with the
Haydn; the audience takes its time to meet him halfway,
coughing away, as London audiences always do. Richter brings
out the patrician elements in the opening but doesn’t fail
to evoke the more quixotic elements of the writing either – there
is characteristically pellucid clarity in the passagework.
Reflectiveness saturates the slow movement, whilst there
is energy, vitality and just the right quality of wit in
the Minuet finale.
Prokofiev Second Sonata is powerfully poised, few before
or since having quite so acute an access to its character
and sensibility as Richter. In particular the Scherzo is
articulated with mesmerising dynamism and control, though
no less in the troubled Andante do we find Richter’s
characterisation at a peak of engagement and integrity.
The incorrigible dry wit of the finale – doubtless Richter
saw an analogue here between Haydn and Prokofiev – is effortlessly
projected, so too the music’s colouristic potential laced
with the rhythmic vitality of a thoroughbred.
a pensive and beautifully voiced Légende Richter
plays ten of the Visions fugitives to which he brings
burnished elegance and tartness equally and in profusion.
The highlight for me is the sheer puckishness of his way
with XI. Finally we have Sonata No.8, a work he first heard
the composer play, though Gilels premiered it and Richter
always professed the highest regard for his contemporary’s
performance. He also thought the Eighth the ‘richest’ of
the sonatas and along with the Fourth and Ninth his favourite.
Richter’s playing encapsulates a certain hauteur, and is
viewed in one long architectural line. He controls and
corrals the long first movement in a particularly impressive
way, and vests the central panel of the sonata with a dynamic,
uncompromisingly ochre-hued vivid grimness.
all then this recital does extend a definite hold, even
acknowledging the plethora of other Richter in-concert
performances. With uncomplicated sound quality and good
notes this definitely does exert a strong pull on the collector’s
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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