Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 16 in A minor, D.845 (1825) [35:37]
Moments musicaux D.780: No. 1 in C major [5:45]
Impromptus D.899 9 (1827): No. 2 in E flat major [4:16]; No. 4 in A flat major [7:21]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Bagatelles Op.33 (1802): No.3 in F major [2:04]; No.5 in C major [2:43]
Bagatelles Op.119 (1820-22): No.2 in C major [0:57]; No.7 in C major [1:07]; No.9 in A minor [0:43]
Bagatelles Op.126 (1823-24): No.1 n G major [3:36]; No.4 in B minor [3:45]; No.6 in E flat major [4:09]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
rec. March, 1957, Moscow, first published 1958 (D.845); live 1958 Sofia (D.899); August, 1959, Moscow, first published 1961 (Bagatelles).
REGIS RRC1390 [72:01]
Although the information given by Regis is scanty, we may deduce from discographies online that these recordings, apart from the live concert recordings of the Impromptus made in Sofia in 1958, are the product of studio sessions in Moscow. Thus they are dry, “Soviet mono” sound in 1957 and 1959 - pretty grim, for all Richter’s sovereign artistry. Richter devotees will point to worse; given the pianist’s antipathy to recording. Given his indifference to the technical aspects of recorded sound we must be grateful for what we can get - which is thin, clangourous and distorted at peak volumes. Ah well.
This is the fourth bargain disc Regis has issued of Richter playing Schubert and as a bonus to D.845 we have an assortment of piano miniatures by Schubert and Beethoven. While this CD might be the least satisfactory so far as sonics are concerned, it is artistically indispensable if you respond to Richter’s Olympian way with both composers. The harsh sound and Richter’s attack combine to produce an unsettlingly aggressive but undeniably exciting effect and underline Schubert’s kinship with Beethoven in the sonata.
It is one of the most mercurial and even puzzling of Schubert’s piano sonatas, embracing a kaleidoscopic range of disparate moods. The first movement is very free, almost like a fantasy, veering wildly from introspective lyricism to hurdy-gurdy rusticity to grand, military gestures, to angry defiance in its obsessive but constantly inventive return to that ostinato A minor theme, here banged out to insistently by Richter. His fierce concentration confers a unity of mood upon the work which eludes gentler exponents; the classical restraint of Kempff is less appropriate to this music. The great thumping, chordal ending to the Moderato is thrilling. Yet Richter’s dynamism is balanced by his astonishing fluency and poetic touch. The clarity and evenness his articulation of the runs in the Andante are mesmerising; the Trio in the third movement is the most tender of lullabies with exquisitely graded dynamics; the Rondo a miracle of fleet grace. 

His treatment of the lesser “morceaux” is no less magnetic and absorbing. The one “Moment Musical” is, by contrast with what has preceded it in this programme, all restraint and understatement as if to underline the fact that Richter is by no means all Sturm und Drang. The two Impromptus are sheer digitised liquefaction.
The comparative melodic straightforwardness and rhythmic exuberance of Beethoven’s “Bagatelles” adds again to the balance and contrast of the programme.
The astounding range of moods and pianistic skills on show here makes one regret afresh the inadequacy of the sound but this is still a disc no true Richter fan will want to pass up.  

Ralph Moore 

An astounding range of moods and pianistic skills. 

Masterwork Index: Schubert piano sonata 16