The Dvorák Piano Concerto recording dates from 1977, the Schubert
The Dvorák Piano Concerto, dating from 1876, has always been overshadowed
by its later and more celebrated, more often performed Violin and Cello
Concertos. On the suface it shares non of the glittering showmanship bravura
passages of so many other late nineteenth century piano concertos; and its
themes do not linger in the memory as indelibly as those in Dvorak's other
two concertos. Yet it has that kind of subtle, more restrained beauty and
fascination that reveals itself more and more on repeated hearings. A work
that has grown beautifully insidiously on this listener. This piano concerto
certainly held a fascination for Richter and it was chosen by him, much to
the surprise of his many admirers, for a Royal Albert Hall concert given
during the heyday of his early celebrity. This recording followed soon after
and it demonstrates his affection for the work. He is joined by Carlos Kleiber
who did not make excessive numbers of visits to the recording studios but
when he did it was often an occasion (One remembers his monumental recording
of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony for instance). The collaboration of Richter
and Kleiber lifts this work so that we can fully appreciate its strengths.
It is a genial, high-spirited concerto; few shadows cross its path. Folk
material is a strong element in its make-up. The long first movement (nearly
19 minutes duration) is consistently delightful with a lovely lyrical main
theme that skips and dances along through the movement and reaches a very
affecting climax at about 14:36. The Andante is very appealing with its misty,
dreamily introspective pages, contrasting with faster more extrovert, sometimes
wry, observations. Richter's reading, throughout, is a model of lucidity,
poetic eloquence and glittering dexterity.
Schubert's 'Wanderer Fantasia' is monumental and monumentally difficult.
Quoting from Bryce Morrison's notes: "Few pianists have been more closely
associated with the Fantasie's alpine challenge than Richter, first amongst
an élite able to subdue even the most ungrateful difficulties (including
a notorious passage in running semiquaver octaves and shuddering
tremolandi in the first movement, and final pages which pile Pelion
on Ossa) leaving him free to concentrate on Shubert's purely musical quality.
Implacable rhythm, a capacity to switch dynamic extremes without any loss
of impetus, an almost viscereal force and manic propulsion offset by an uncanny
conjuring of lyricism and stillness, are merely a few of the characteristics
that make Richter a supreme master of the 'Wanderer' Yes, indeed; this
performance had me sitting on the edge of my seat in awe and wonder, what
more need I say?.