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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto no.1 in F major, K37
Piano Concerto no.5 in D major, K175
Piano Concerto no.18 in B flat major, K456
Piano Concerto no.9 in E flat major, K271 'Jeunehomme'
Piano Concerto no.18 in B flat major, K456
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Shinsei Nihon Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Barshai (1, 5 & 18)
French National Radio Orchestra/Lorin Maazel (9)
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin (18)
rec. Tokyo 1994 (1, 5 & 18); Tours, 1966 (9); Moscow, 1977 (18)
NTSC 0, Black and White and Colour
PARNASSUS DVD PDVD1207 [139 mins]

There are five filmed Mozart concerto performances in this 139-minute DVD, though K456 is seen in two different concerts. The earliest is Richter’s performance of K271 in Tours in July 1966, with Lorin Maazel directing the French National Radio Orchestra in the only black and white performance. The location is a rustic barn; the beams are appealing. There’s a microphone directly by the side of the piano and limited camera angles, one that tracks to focus on Richter mid-shot and then close-up and another that tracks across the orchestra and conductor. We also get front-on views of Richter. The slow movement is especially rapt, though Maazel conducts on the mirror philosophy, each hand faithfully mirroring the other.

Richter and Kondrashin join in K456 on 9 January 1977. The visuals are in rather washy colour (I assume this is transferred direct from VHS) and it’s noticeable – or it becomes so when one gets to it – that Kondrashin takes a far more athletic and rhythmically pointed approach than Barshai in Tokyo in 1994. Indeed, so does Richter. Though he doesn’t play from it, Richter has the score open. The cameramen were clearly under directorial orders to focus on Richter; we hardly see anything of Kondrashin and as the shots are from some way back in the stalls there is frustration in not even having many orchestral panning shots, not even in the orchestral introductions. The cameras only have eyes for Richter.

The 3 March 1994 Tokyo performance was his final concert with orchestra. The Shinsei Nihon Symphony is on well-drilled form under Barshai’s gemütlich direction and the three concertos can be enjoyed in somewhat bleeding colour and some wobbles along the way – again I assume these are ex-VHS. Again, all eyes are on Richter, the orchestra and conductor relegated alike to the role of boys and girls in the back room. The First Concerto suffers most from film bleeding but K175 is better and more consistent and K456 equally reasonable though it could not be claimed these are in any way state of the art. Richter receives whoops of joy at the end of the last concerto and off he goes. Incidentally his cadenza choices are worthy of note: for K37, Artur Balsam, for K175, Soulima Stravinsky and, as with the Moscow concert, for K456, Mozart’s cadenzas.

There are no notes with the DVD, but there is a simple track listing and navigation is straightforward and unproblematic. Video restoration has clearly done well but there is only so much one can do with old tapes. Richter is captured here over a period of nearly three decades on this all-Mozart release. It’s not especially revelatory, though it does show how much more vivid and engaged he was in the 70s and offers a handy insight into his imperatives in Mozart over the years.

Jonathan Woolf


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