This arresting installment in BBC Legends' extensive Richter series, which covers many recitals he gave in the UK, begins with a piece he included on a 1979 tour. Other versions of Schubert's Sonata in A minor D. 784 come from Japan, a previous stop. All are closely similar; this one from royal Festival Hall is a bit more bangy in Richter's sharp attacks in the first movement; they are so aggressive that I was surprised to read that if you follow with score, Richter is being utterly scrupulous to the composer's markings. the sound is reasonably good broadcast stereo, but with noticeable hiss and tape gritch. Some reviewers have found Richter's interpretation unduly bleak, but I think that applies only to the first movement. to me, he's certainly austere yet compelling. The rest of the program, taken from a separate concert in Manchester in 1969, was miked closer but is a bit duller.
I've never heard - or even heard of - Schubert's 13 Variations on a Theme by Huttenbrenner D. 576, and the chief interest here, so far as I can tell, is that Richter was interested in it; otherwise the theme itself is unpromising and dry, the variations skillful but without any remarkable events, although one might be reminded of Beethoven's thorny abruptness. I think most serious listeners would rank Schumann as one of Richter's strongest composers. He played and recorded the Fantasiestucke Op. 12 quite frequently form the late Forites onward, always omitting nos. 4 and 6, and sometimes no. 7, although not here. It would make for a cozy connoisserus' discussion to pick which Richter version is the very best. This one, however, is typical in its complete mastery and poetic depth. I was grateful that in the stormy No. 2 "Aufschwung," the pianist avoids angry, clangorous attacks. His relative lack of aggression makes this a good choice among his others.
Richter was famously arbitrary in which pieces he chose out of the Preludes of Chopin and Debussy, or the latter's Images. Here from Bk. II is the first number, 'Cloches a travers les feuilles.' I can't say that I know what bells sound like heard through leaves, but Richter's evocation of muted bells and his delicacy of graded touch, is remarkable. It says much about this mercurial genius that in a single program he could be so austere and unvarnished as he is in the Schubert and so nuanced and sensitive here.