As with previous Richter issues from Live Classics, this one shows the great man in fine fettle. At the age of 77, his playing is by turns subtle and imperious, always firm in concentration and with scarcely a technical smudge in sight. The recital took place at the third International Festival named after his close friend, the violinist Oleg Kagan, in a small town in the Bavarian Alps – precisely the kind of out-of-the way venue where Richter felt most at home and where his music-making blossomed most freely.
He and Natalia Gutman were already longstanding chamber-music partners; there is even a 1985 recording of the Britten sonata by them on the now-defunct Revelation label. Temperamentally they are well attuned – both essentially take a no-frills approach, yet such is the authority of their playing that is hardly ever seems wanting in colour. Their Saint-Saens finds more nobility and substance than you might think possible in such a apparently harmless score, and their Britten yield only marginally to the composer’s recording with Rostropovich, offering many of its own fresh nuances of fantasy and wit.
In any case this was always music clear to Richter’s heart, and there is abundant energy and dash in his dialogues with Gutman. Their collaboration is as effective as any modern alternative I have come across.
International Record Review 1/01