Sviatoslav Richter ó Concerto Edition; Historical Russian Archives
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
rec. 1952-1983
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9199 [10 CDs: c.11:36:00]

There is still a huge amount to do, to get to grips with Richterís surviving studio and concert discography. Itís daunting. This box only adds to the mini-avalanche of material now available, of broadcasts, bootlegs and studio survivors that cover pretty much all stages of his long and prodigious musical life.

I canít promise to shed even light on these performances, some of which may seem familiar but which prove, on closer inspection, not to be so. But I suppose some illumination is better than none.

Letís take things disc by disc. The first is all-Bach. He recorded the D minor Concerto with Talich in Prague, a famous disc, in 1954. Panton has even brought out a live performance with the two men, dating apparently from the day after their studio collaboration. This Brilliant performance with Sanderling is dated to April 1955 so it would appear to be identical with the well known Melodiya/BMG [29461 2], though thereís a small discrepancy between dates; Melodiya claims 20 April whilst Brilliant claims two days later. The Concerto No.3 in D is a bit of a facer for me; Iím not sure if itís been released before, nor the G minor. Both are with Nikolevsky, with whom he certainly recorded the G minor. However that was in 1991. Brilliant claims 19 December 1983 for both these concerto performances with the Studentsí Orchestra of the Moscow State Conservatory.

Discs two and three are devoted largely to Mozart, with whom the pianist had a deeply ambivalent relationship. I find a number of these concerto performances rather sluggish from time to time and only intermittently persuasive. The E flat K271 with Svetlanov has been issued before, though on a rather hard-to-find Scora Classics set. Itís not to be confused with the ORTF/Maazel recording of a few months later on Historical Performers, the same performance that has appeared on a Warner DVD. K453 and K449 are with Barshai. Beethovenís C minor concerto is with Kurt Sanderling (March 1952). Iím not aware that this has been released before, though the pianistís live Moscow performance of 1954 with Abendroth has been released on Parnassus PACD 96013/14 and there are a number of other live performances from the 1950s and 1960s with which some readers may be familiar. Thereís a Brno performance with Bakala on Praga in particular, and then in the 1960s he teamed up with Ančerl and Kondrashin Ė both live. Incidentally the 1962 Vienna Symphony studio recording was, once again, with Sanderling. Richter was not a fan of cycles, certainly not for the hell of it, and so picked and chose with care. This 1952 performance has the demerit of sour woodwind tuning and a booming bass section. Itís hit and miss all-round, in fact, soloistically and orchestrally, and strongest in the slow movement.

The Schumann was perhaps Richterís favourite Concerto. He was partnered in this 1958 broadcast by George Georgescu, in Moscow. This was a decade after the performance with Alexander Gauk in the same city, which is on Multisonic, and about six months before the studio recording in Warsaw with Rowicki. Powerfully eloquent, it reveals once again the conductorís excellence. From April 1968 the Tchaikovsky is partnered by Kondrashin. On balance I prefer the earlier 1957 live Rachlin-directed broadcast (Parnassus PACD003/04), but there are many other choices, not least the studio Ančerl in Prague in 1954, if you donít want the 1962 Vienna Karajan, that is.

Disc six gives us a powerful Brahms B flat concerto with Georgescu once again, and apparently from the same concert as the Schumann. Itís not to be confused with the Bucharest performance the two men gave in 1964. Orchestrally this is a very personalised performance, with typical Russian horns and a cello principal who wonít be to all tastes. A more central recommendation might be the 1960 Leinsdorf-Chicago, unless you want to delve back to the live Czech Philharmonic/Kondrashin from 1950 on Multisonic. In truth however there is much Brahms 2 from Richter, and Iím sure more to come. The Strauss Burleske is with Rozhdestvensky in 1961, though he also did it with Georgescu in Bucharest the same year.

Thereís quite a bit of tape hiss in the Chopin Concerto in F minor (Moscow, Svetlanov, 1966). Still the sound spectrum is certainly good, and the playing excellent. There are numerous examples of his playing of this concerto, almost all live, in addition to the Chicago/Leinsdorf studio disc of 1960 and the decade later Paris/Maazel. We also have a rare outing for Franckís Les Djinns and a favoured Haydn Concerto Ė the only one by the composer he chose to play and which he came to late. Appropriately he chose a chamber orchestra with which to record. The DvorŠk and Prokofiev No.1 concertos are on disc 8. Svetlanov accompanies the former in 1966, Kondrashin the latter in 1952. His famous recording of the DvorŠk came with Kleiber in Munich in 1976, but the first live survivor thus far traced is a LSO broadcast with Kondrashin 1961 Ė itís on Intaglio INCD7511. The Moscow slow movement is especially compelling and beautifully played. There are surprisingly few surviving performances of the Prokofiev First. I canít be authoritative but this one seems to be the same as on Melodiya/BMG 29468 2.

Both Bartůk No.2 and the Britten are from May (separate concerts) 1967 with Svetlanov. The Bartůk is charged and vital but has already appeared on Revelation RV10093. The studio Maazel followed two years later on EMI. Given his association with both composers these are fascinating documents. The dynamic and heroic Britten may be Ė or may not, I canít be quite sure Ė the same as that on Revelation RV 10060. Aside from the Aldeburgh recording with the composer in 1970 there are exciting-sounding survivors with Barshai in Novosibirsk and with Ferencsik in Budapest, though Iíve heard neither. The final disc gives us more interesting repertoire in the shape of Alban Bergís Chamber Concerto and Hindemithís Kammermusik No.2. The Berg is from 1972 with Barshai whilst the very convincingly performed Hindemith is with the Moscow Conservatory Orchestra under Yuri Nikolayevsky.

Thereís a great deal to consider therefore with this set. Alternative performances clearly will loom large, not least studio ones. What I can say is that by and large these Brilliant performances have been preserved well and are generally in good shape, transfer-wise.

Jonathan Woolf

By and large these Brilliant performances have been preserved well and are generally in good shape.

Full Track List

Sviatoslav Richter ó Concerto Edition; Historical Russian Archives
CD 1
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Keyboard Concerto No.1 in D minor BWV1052 [25:19]
Keyboard Concerto No.3 in D BWV1054 [16:56]
Keyboard Concerto in G minor BWV1058 [14:03]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Kurt Sanderling (No.1) rec. 1955
Studentsí Orchestra of the Moscow State Conservatory/Yuri Nikolayevsky (No.3 and G minor) rec. 1983
CD 2
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.9 in E flat K271 ĎJeunehommeí [34:37]
Piano Concerto No.17 in G K453 [32:55]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov (K271) rec. 1966
Moscow Chamber Orchestra/Rudolf Barshai (K453) rec. 1968
CD 3
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor K466 [33:11]
Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat K595 [30:54]
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra/Karl Eliasberg (K466) rec. 1958
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin (K595) rec. 1973
CD 4
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.14 in E flat K449 [22:21]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor Op.37 [33:57]
Choral Fantasy in C minor Op.80 [19:04]
Moscow Chamber Orchestra/Rudolf Barshai (K449) rec. 1973
Moscow Youth Symphony Orchestra/Kurt Sanderling (Beethoven No.3) rec. 1952
USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Kurt Sanderling (Choral Fantasy) rec. 1952
CD 5
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op.54 [29:35]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor Op.23 [34:09]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/George Georgescu (Schumann) rec. 1958
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin (Tchaikovsky) rec. 1968
CD 6
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat Op.83 [48:01]
Burleske in D minor [19:11]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/George Georgescu (Brahms) rec. 1958
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Strauss) rec. 1961
CD 7
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor Op.21 [31:29]
Les Djinns [11:38]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Concerto in D Hob.XVIII/11 [19:22]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov (Chopin) rec. 1966
Moscow Youth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin (Franck) rec. 1952
Minsk Chamber Orchestra/Yuri Tsiryuk (Haydn) rec. 1983
CD 8
Antonin DVORŃK
Piano Concerto in G minor Op.33 [38:42]
Piano Concerto No.1 in D flat Op. 10 [14:01]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov (Dvorak) rec. 1966
Moscow Youth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin (Prokofiev) rec. 1952
CD 9
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor Op.21/Sz95 [29:34]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Piano Concerto No.1 in D Op. 13 [32:43]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov rec. 1967
CD 10
Alban BERG
Chamber Concerto for piano, violin and 13 wind Instruments [41:40]
Oleg Kagan, violin
Kammermusik No.2 [19:22]
All-Union Radio and TV Large Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Barshai (Berg) rec. 1972
Moscow Conservatory Orchestra/Yuri Nikolayevsky (Hindemith) rec. 1978
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9199 [10 CDs: 57:24 + 67:34 + 64:10 + 75:36 + 63:45 + 67:16 + 62:30 + 52:49 + 62:13 + 60:58]