Three performances from Sviatoslav Richter that will probably the finest ever placed on disc. Those of us who were privileged to hear him in concert will recall the antithesis of showmanship, yet you knew you were in the presence of one of the greatest pianists the world has ever known. I have lived with the original Melodiya recording of the Prokofiev Seventh since a batch of discs arrived in a London shop packed in white paper sleeves, and have heard most other recordings since, Richter’s having a vitality none of the others possess. It is his ability to create such a wide range of dynamics from hands working independently of each other that sets this apart, that big pounding rhythm in the opening movement dramatic but never overburdened. Again in the work’s closing moments the persistent figure in the left hand seems to have a life of its own. At a time when he hear so much Tchaikovsky, the Piano Sonata receives little attention, though if we had this blistering performance it would become a concert favourite. The problem is that few pianists could inject such drama and incredible brilliance. The score of Prokofiev’s Ninth had been given to Richter on the composer’s birthday in 1947, and after some initial doubts about the work, it became a part of his standard repertoire. It is certainly a more problematic score than the Seventh, and has to be held together in a way that eludes so many other recorded performances. I still have those original Melodiya discs with their incredibly ‘gritty’ sounding surfaces, and I can only complement Ward Marston on his restoration of the sound from such LP pressings. He could not eliminate the ‘wow’ as you come to the centre of the original discs, but it is a passing blip. Fervently recommended.
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