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5.0 out of 5 stars Many definitive recordings here, March 19 2004
By 
J. Loke "Loke" (Kailua, HI United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 1954-1988: Richter In Prague (Audio CD)
Richter has a way of getting to the heart or to the truth behind any piece he plays. Using his powerful mind, spirtual understanding, and limitless technique, his is able to put his ego aside and let the music speak for itself. Out of the 15 discs, I thoroughly enjoyed 14 of them. The only exception being the Brahms Sonata 1 & 2. I simply do not enjoy listening to either piece. I will now list the pieces in which I believe are definitive performances. Each will be followed with other recordings with which I am comparing them to. 1. Appassionata(Pletnev, Pollini, Rubinstein, Horowitz) 2. Chopin Etude Op.10 No.1 (Perahia, Pollini, Ashkenazy, Lugansky, Wild, Berezovsky) 3. Chopin Nocturne Op.62 No.2 (Pires, Ashkenazy, Rubinstein) 4. Chopin Polonaise-Fantasy Op.61 (Kapell, Horowitz, Pollini) 5. Scriabin Sonata No.5 (Horowitz, Evgeni Mikhailov, Sofronitsky, Bernd Glemser) 6. All Chopin Ballades-definitely some of the most passionate interpretations on record(Perahia, Ashkenazy, Nikolai Petrov, Zimmerman, Kissin) 7. Beethoven Piano Con. 1&3 (Perahia, Serkin, Rubinstein) 8. Liszt Transcendental Etudes-excluding Feux Follets, best performance is given be E.Kissin (V.Ovchinikov, Berezovsky, Arrau, Bolet, F.Kempf) 9. Valses nobles et sentimentales (Cecile Ousset, Berezovsky, Pogorelich) 10. Miroirs-Richter perfectly enters the sound-world of Ravel like no other pianist. His tone and phrasing are out-of-this-world. (Cecile Ousset, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Minoru Nojima, Gieseking, Anne Queffelec) Almost every piece he plays sounds important and has an indescribable satisfaction to it. Buy it! It will give you hours of listening pleasure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Music, Sept. 16 2003
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This review is from: 1954-1988: Richter In Prague (Audio CD)
After owning a few dozen recordings with Richter (including a few made in Czechoslovakia), buying this box-set would have been a stretch had it not been for a couple of assumptions: a) Richter's confessed affection for several things Czech b) the promised value for money. Now, to sum it all up, I am so glad this set exceeded my expectations by so much!
Indeed, I could detect in these live performances, given over 3 decades, what might have been Richter's love for music, audience, and Czechoslovakia. The atmosphere is of warm intimacy, punctuated by veritable moments of musical tension built and delivered so masterfully, yet jocular at times. Such unique moments, not always present in his other recordings, I posit, are the fruit of Richter's being in resonance with his part Slavic and part German audience.
As for the presentation, suffice it to say it is simply great. Kudos to Harmonia Mundi Germany! The master-recordings seem to be more than decent--considering their casual nature. The booklet is concise and informative--notes on the composers and pieces as well as notes on Richter's approach to those pieces/composers.
Had I been asked to pay twice as much as I did after listening to this music I would have done it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive!, June 21 2003
By 
hjonkers (The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 1954-1988: Richter In Prague (Audio CD)
I just don't know where to start here. Richter shines over the whole length of this magnificent collection. Most of the pieces included in the set have simply never sounded better. From a musical point of view, I mean. The sound quality itself is sometimes awful, especially in Moussorgsky's Pictures and Schumann's etudes. Additionally, it seems as if the concert visitors are competing in a match 'Who can cough most.' Nearly every time Richter switches from piano to forte, the audience is coughing. Very annoying.
Those are the flaws. Richter himself can't help it of course, so I won't take stars off for the lousy recording quality. And exaggerating the aforementioned may not be sensible, because it distracts from the great musical quality of the set.
Take his Beethoven for example. The performance of the famous sonata op.2 no.3 is a very special one, because Richter's able to create a fine tension in the first part. This piece contains lots of 'gunpowder explosions' (as Amazon calls it), and most pianists prefer to play those explosions in a rather dull way. With Richter at the piano, they're really exciting, even when you've listened to it a hundred times. The sonata op.26 is not really my cup of tea: Richter could've used more pedal in this sonata to make it sound a bit heavier. Now it is a quite dry performance. The 'Tempest-' and 'Hunt'-sonatas, in contrary, are great. Richter's really one of the first pianists who plays the 'Presto con fuoco'-part of the 'Hunt'-sonata at a fast and agressive tempo. Just what Beethoven wanted. The Appassionata's first part sounds a bit too noisy to me, but nevertheless fine. Really outstanding is the last part of the Appassionata, where Richter seems to forget Beethoven's inscription 'non troppo allegro.' Whether Beethoven was right or not: it's simply amazing to hear Richter play this ultra-dramatic piece at such a devilish speed. Running towards the end of the piece, it is getting even more interesting, because Beethoven indicates to play 'Presto' there. Then Richter shows he can play even faster than he did before! A-m-a-z-i-n-g. Each time i'm listening to this coda, it seems to me as if someone has been tweaking the piece: this speed is nearly impossible! The Hammerklavier is even better, although Richter makes a horrible mistake in the first bar of the sonata (he adds an high f to the first chord). But what follows is a Hammerklavier you could only dream of. The fugue in particular is fantastic. Beethoven's Bagatelles and Diabelli Variations are great too.
I cannot highlight everything, but some things simply have to be referred to. The Chopin Études are the best I've ever heard. The study op.10 no.4 is the most interesting of them all. I simply can't believe how Richter could play this study in such an amazing tempo. Richter's reading of the Chopin's Ballades is magnificent, and he plays them much better than any of his colleagues. Number 4, which was Richter's favorite solo piano piece, has finally got rid of the messy coda. The coda has been turned into a whirlwind of noteswhich is most impressive. The bad sound quality is only a minor drawback here. The Schubert is just as great, particularly because of Richter's very special treatment of the Sonata in B Flat's first movement. Playing it much more slowly than necessary, Richter creates a very mystical sphere in this piece. Even Glenn Gould liked this Schubert (and that means a lot!). The same is true for the theme of Schumann's Études Symphoniques, by the way. Another favourite of mine was the Rachmaninov disc. This contains some of the best Études-tableaux: pieces that sound like a nice mix between Beethoven and 20est century music. They also require high-level virtuosity, and when it comes to virtosity, Richter is the man. Rachmaninov himself wouldn't have played these Études-tableaux better.
Altogether these fifteen CDs have become one of my favourite sets. Every self-respecting music fan should've heard these recordings at least. But there's no need in writing on and on about it: you have to discover it yourself. The booklet is a very useful guide to take you on the journey. Enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure Trove of 'Live' Richter Performances, April 9 2002
By 
T. Beers (Arlington, Virginia United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 1954-1988: Richter In Prague (Audio CD)
Recorded by Czech Radio between the mid '50s and the late '80s, this fascinating CD set is one of the best available documents of the great Sviatoslav Richter in concert. Recorded sound is variable (the set rates 5 stars just the same), and most of the pre-1970s performances are mono, but no fan of great pianism should be without this set. And although many performances here are Richter "standards" (Skryabin sonatas, Beethoven's 'Appasionata' and 'Tempest' sonatas, Schumann's 'Fantasie,' to name just a few), there are some rarities as well. Let me give just three reasons why I find this set so indispensable. Richter didn't perform Beethoven's monumental 'Diabelli Variations' and 'Hammerklavier' sonata until quite late in his career; the very well recorded Prague concert recordings presented here are fully the equal of any released on other labels. Likewise, the performance of Brahms's First Piano Sonata (which exists in several Richter versions)is truly first-rate. Nevertheless, the Brahms disc is more valuable for presenting the best Richter performance I've heard of the less well-known Second Sonata, plus the only known Richter performance of the composer's 'Variations on a Hungarian Tune.' Finally, let me say to those who have long known - and loved - Richter's magnificent 1958 Sofia performance of Moussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition,' this set presents a roughly contemporary (1956) Prague account that is almost as good and much better recorded. So Richter fans shouldn't hesitate and those who don't know the the man's art will find in this set a convincing demonstration that the late Ukrainian/Soviet pianist was one of the greatest artists in the history of the instrument. One final note. This is a reissue of a boxed set that appeared several years ago, also on Harmonia Mundi. For the reissue, the fifteen discs have been transferred to sturdy cardboard envelopes and housed in a space saving 'soft' box that is elegant to behold and very space-efficient. Full liner notes duplicate those on the previous issue, but the price has been handsomely reduced: fifteen cds are now offered for the price of five!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure Trove of 'Live' Richter Performances, April 9 2002
By 
T. Beers (Arlington, Virginia United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 1954-1988: Richter In Prague (Audio CD)
Recorded by Czech Radio between the mid '50s and the late '80s, this fascinating CD set is one of the best available documents of the great Sviatoslav Richter in concert. Recorded sound is variable (the set rates 5 stars just the same), and most of the pre-1970s performances are mono, but no fan of great pianism should be without this set. And although many performances here are Richter "standards" (Skryabin sonatas, Beethoven's 'Appasionata' and 'Tempest' sonatas, Schumann's 'Fantasie,' to name just a few), there are some rarities as well. Let me give just three reasons why I find this set so indispensable. Richter didn't perform Beethoven's monumental 'Diabelli Variations' and 'Hammerklavier' sonata until quite late in his career; the very well recorded Prague concert recordings presented here are fully the equal of any released on other labels. Likewise, the performance of Brahms's First Piano Sonata (which exists in several Richter versions)is truly first-rate. Nevertheless, the Brahms disc is more valuable for presenting the best Richter performance I've heard of the less well-known Second Sonata, plus the only known Richter performance of the composer's 'Variations on a Hungarian Tune.' Finally, let me say to those who have long known - and loved - Richter's magnificent 1958 Sofia performance of Moussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition,' this set presents a roughly contemporary (1956) Prague account that is almost as good and much better recorded. So Richter fans shouldn't hesitate and those who don't know the the man's art will find in this set a convincing demonstration that the late Ukrainian/Soviet pianist was one of the greatest artists in the history of the instrument. One final note. This is a reissue of a boxed set that appeared several years ago, also on Harmonia Mundi. For the reissue, the fifteen discs have been transferred to sturdy cardboard envelopes and housed in a space saving 'soft' box that is elegant to behold and very space-efficient. Full liner notes duplicate those on the previous issue, but the price has been handsomely reduced: fifteen cds are now offered for the price of five!
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1954-1988: Richter In Prague
1954-1988: Richter In Prague by S/Bakala, B-Orch Phil D Richter (Audio CD - 2002)
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