Sviatoslav Richter


Sviatoslav Richter about himself

I was born in Zhitomir in 1915, in Berditchev Street which was later called Karl Marx Street, even though it turned into Berditchev Highway, thus preserving the original name. This highway led to a bridge over the Teterev River. In a cabin at the edge of the city – I am digressing – lived Irina Ivanova, whom I knew as a girl, and her mother. When you entered the cabin, you ran the risk of tumbling head over heels. Irina later became the wife of Lev Nikolaevich Naumov. Neuhaus was very fond of him. Naumov was a magnificent musician, almost a saintly one, and was a loyal adherent of the Neuhaus School. A likeable and emotional man. I heard him play Chopin’s fourth Scherzo wonderfully well… From the bridge, looking to the left, one could make out a church in the distance, and it awakened hopes, as it were, of something both fascinating and mysterious. I always had a longing to go there – the name of the village was Stanishovka – but we never got there. The grown-ups always dodged my questions, they ascribed no importance to them. Stanishovka will remain forever in my memory… My first memories are dreams.

Aus Walentina Tschemberdschi
Swjatoslaw Richter, Eine Reise durch Sibirien
Residenz-Verlag Salzburg 1992

Maestro Richter on Live Classics

Our first professional contact with Sviatoslav Richter occurred as the result of the discovery of some tapes with Mozart Violin Sonatas which we were able to acquire from the Moscow archives of Kondrashin. After careful listening Richter spontaneously gave his consent for their production (LCL122 & LCL 123). Over the years his selfless and total support of the legacy of Oleg Kagan on Live Classics was one of our most valuable assets. And we understood very well that this involvement on his part was on behalf of Oleg whom he held dear as a human being no less than a musician.

In talking to Richter some time after the release of these CDs and two others featuring Elisso Wirssaladze (LCL 311 & LCL 371) it transpired that he liked our productions very much. Nevertheless, we were very moved when one of his close friends conveyed to us that the Maestro himself also wanted us to produce ‘a disc’. This obviously implied that he allowed us to record his concerts. We knew that he did not like to play for microphones in studio conditions, nor did he like having concerts recorded that were prearranged for production. However, afterwards he would be truly delighted, if one of the concerts that he gave well turned out to have been recorded, where no pressures had been exerted on him in advance. Sometimes after such a ‘good’ concert he would ask succintly ‘whether everything had gone well’ and later he would refer precisely to the tapes from these concerts. In the case of our first Solo-CD with Richter, he said immediately after the concert said that it was the best concert of the whole tour, and that he very much wanted it to be produced (Bach on LCL 421). He generally did not oppose recordings being made during concerts, but he made no concessions such as extra studio sessions, rehearsals for the set-up of microphones or additional recording sessions after a concert for corrections. All this may have contributed to the rumour that he sometimes took a critical position in regard to major labels. We personally believe that quite a few labels succeeded with great effect in their endeavour to present the art of Sviatoslav Richter.

Richter definitely liked his recordings to be released as long as he was confident about their musical quality. With respect to the choice of music, several times he explicitly expressed his wish that the recording of a certain piece should be released even though there existed another recording of the same composition in his performance, ‘simply because it would be different and therefore interesting.’

Richter would never have agreed to release a patchwork of different performances, and actually none of the Live Classics CDs is such a compilation of one piece from various recitals. Essentially always one particular concert was the focal point of the CD under production, such as the recitals in the medieval Monastery of Kempen not far from Cologne (Bach on LCL 421), in the St. Andreas Cathedral in Seesen in Lower Saxonia (Chopin/Scriabin on LCL 441), and in the most beautiful locations in Upper Bavaria (Wildbad Kreuth, Schliersee and Rottach-Egern) at the occasion of the yearly Oleg Kagan Festival (Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, Scriabin and Debussy on LCL 431, Grieg on LCL 442 and Bach, Haydn, Beethoven on LCL 461). Only the Mozart/Beethoven recording published on LCL 422 represents in its first part the recital in the Thürmer Concert Hall in Bochum, whereas the second part is taken from a concert played in the Castle of Kiel during the same concert tour. The interchange of first and second parts of different concerts was made for purely musical reasons, and as the editing work was minimal, this was the solution proposed by Richter himself.

It was clear from the start that for Richter as well as for us the chief criteria for each recording arose from the overall musical quality. Having decided that a concert was outstanding, minor editing was acceptable if it improved the performance and, of course, release was then reconsidered at this stage. Concerning editing Richter always gave precise instructions that varied from ‘essential for release’ to ‘acceptable if there is nothing better’ and we closely followed his instructions. But, in general, any editing of Live Classics productions of Richter’s concerts had to be limited since there was never any rehearsal in the hall and there were no post-concert recording sessions. Editing was dependent, on one hand, on the repeats, which he faithfully played in the belief that maximal freedom is reached through repetition only, and, on the other hand, on the parallel recordings of the same piece. Since the birth of Live Classics,multiple recording of identical programmes has been one of our central (though costly) precepts.

The last solo recordings we were discussing with Richter pertain again to recitals in Germany played in the years 1992 to 1994, more or less his last years of public performance. On this occasion we would like to deeply thank our pianist friends Elisso Wirssaladze and Vadim Suchanov for their unlimited critical support which was of tremendous help to the Maestro in the days of weakness. Among the concerts under consideration were a Bach/Brahms programme played in Bonn and Kempten (to appear on LCL 471), the ‘94 recital in Ludwigshafen with Prokofiev, Scriabin and Ravel (to appear still this fall on LCL 472) and a recital with works by Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin and Scriabin performed in ‘92 in the Great Hall of the Ludwigs-Maximilian University München. Maestro Richter dedicated this concert to the memory of his dear friend, ‘the great artist Marlene Dietrich’. He played that concert on the very day of Marlene Dietrich`s funeral whereto he asked us to ship six hundred white and pink roses.

In the scope of the Oleg Kagan Edition on Live Classics these solo piano recordings have been complemented with chamber music where Maestro figures as partner of Oleg Kagan in Violin Sonatas (Beethoven on LCL 145, Hindemith on LCL 161, Schubert on LCL 172) and of Natalia Gutman with Cello Sonatas (Saint Saens, Britten , Prokofiev on LCL 641). More recently his series has been expanded by some sensational piano trios with Oleg Kagan and Natalia Gutman (Shostakovich on LCL 172, Franck & Ravel on LCL 174).

Konstanze Hörtnagel and M.E. Michel-Beyerle (1997)