Sviatoslav Richter Richter in Hungary (1954-1993) - 14 CD Box Set

BMCCD171 2009

Sviatoslav Richter's concerts recorded by the Hungarian Radio - 14-CD BOX-SET

I think I can safely claim to speak for many Hungarian musicians, when I say that from our childhood on, for decades, Richter’s concerts were the greatest musical experience we had. We were fortunate that he was happy to play in Hungary. In addition to his indescribable personal aura, his unique physical and intellectual characteristics, the simplicity, thoughtfulness and honesty of his approach supplied us for years with the strength and the desire to study and make music.

He did not play the works, but – like the greatest of actors – lived them. I don’t know if it is possible to explain to anybody the extraordinary phenomenon his personality and playing created. We can only hope that this can also be sensed through the recordings, for Richter is one of the few performers whose individuality is clearly manifest on a recording, regardless of its quality, and at each subsequent listening his playing gives a greater, more staggering experience than we are able to remember.

I wish much pleasure to those who will remember him on the basis of these CDs, and also to those who through them will come to know Richter.

Dezső Ránki


Sviatoslav Richter - piano

Hungarian State Philharmonic Orchestra
conducted by János Ferencsik (CD 1: 1-3)

Nina Dorliac (CD 3: 14-15)

About the album

Selected by Dezső Ránki, pianist
Recordings are property of the archive of the Hungarian Radio
Edited by Márta Papp and Márta Perédi
Digital sound restoration: Zsolt Komesz
Sound engineers: Ferenc Varga (CD 5), Katalin Dobó (CD 5), Péter Winkler (CD 8, CD 9), Péter Schlotthauer (CD 10: 1-10, CD 13, CD 14), Attila Balogh (CD 10: 11-19), Emil Sudár (CD 11), Ferenc Pálvölgyi (CD 12: 1-6), Endre Mosó (CD 12: 7-16)
Recording producers: Tibor Erkel (CD 8, CD 9, CD 10: 17-19, CD 12: 1-6), Sándor Balassa (CD 10: 1-16, CD 11), Péter Aczél (CD 12: 7-16, CD 14), László Matz (CD 13)

Cover photos: MTI PHOTO
Cover Art-Smart by GABMER / Bachman

Produced by László Gőz
Co-produced by MR3-Bartók Radio
Associate producer: Zoltán Farkas
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary


Jed Distler - ClassicsToday (en)

Etienne Moreau - Diapason (diapason d'or) (fr)

Disques Office (fr/de)

Wolfram Goertz - Rheinische Post (de)

Wolfgang Schreiber - Süddeutsche Zeitung (de)

Rafael Ortega Basagoiti - Scherzo (es)

Roberto Andrade - Diverdi (es)

Emilia Dudkiewicz - Muzyka21 (płyta miesiaça) (pl)

Arkadiusz Jędrasik - Muzyka21 (płyta miesiaça) (pl)

Victor Eskenasy - (ro) (hu) (hu) (hu)

Fazekas Gergely - Muzsika (hu)

Molnár Szabolcs - Gramofon (hu)

Teimer Gábor - Gramofon (hu)

Csont András - Revizor (hu)

Fáy Miklós - Népszabadság (hu)

Sinkovics Ferenc - Magyar Hírlap (hu)

Végső Zoltán - Élet és Irodalom (hu)

Devich Márton - Heti Válasz (hu)

Devich Márton - Heti Válasz (hu)

Sz. A. - Magyar Demokrata (hu) (hu)

Hifi Piac Magazin (hu)

Mácsai János beszélgetése Ránki Dezsővel - Szvjatoszlav Richter Magyarországon (hu)

20000 HUF 75 EUR

CD1 Richter in Hungary (1954)

Academy of Music (Budapest, 8 March, 1954)

Schumann: Piano concerto in A minor, op. 54

01 I. Allegro affettuoso 14:07
02 II. Intermezzo (Andantino grazioso) 4:26
03 III. Allegro vivace 9:59


05 Intermezzo in E-flat minor, op. 118/6 5:19
04 Intermezzo in A minor, op. 118/1 2:19

Academy of Music (Budapest, 10 March, 1954)

Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Book I (selection)
06 Prelude in C minor 1:13
07 Fugue in C minor 1:30
08 Prelude in F major 0:47
09 Fugue in F major 1:12
10 Prelude in F minor 1:58
11 Fugue in F minor 4:56
12 Prelude in A major 1:04
13 Fugue in A major 2:28
14 Prelude in A minor 0:52
15 Fugue in A minor 3:56

Bach: French Suite in C minor, BWV 813

16 I. Allemande 2:44
17 II. Courante 1:34
18 III. Sarabande 3:01
19 IV. Air 1:10
20 V. Menuet I – II 2:17
21 VI. Gigue 1:26
Total time 1043:09

CD2 Richter in Hungary (1954)

Academy of Music (Budapest, 26 March, 1954)

Prokofiev: Sonata No. 8 in B-flat major, op. 84

01 I. Andante dolce – Allegro moderato – Andante dolce 15:02
02 II. Andante sognando 3:36
03 III. Finale (Vivace) 9:21


04 Pavane pour une infante défunte 7:05
05 Gaspard de la nuit No. 2 – Le gibet 6:06

Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales

06 I. Modéré trés franc 1:10
07 II. Assez lent – avec une expression intense 2:08
08 III. Modéré 1:17
09 IV. Assez animé 0:57
10 V. Presque lent – dans un sentiment intime 1:27
11 VI. Vif 0:41
12 VII. Moins vif 2:22
13 VIII. Épilogue. Lent 4:03


14 Jeux d’eau 4:40
15 Alborada del gracioso 5:53
Total time 1043:09

CD3 Richter in Hungary (1958)

Academy of Music (Budapest, 9 February, 1958)

Schubert: Sonata in C minor, D. 958

01 I. Allegro 10:02
02 II. Adagio 8:01
03 III. Menuetto (Allegro) 3:21
04 IV. Allegro 7:59


05 Toccata, op. 7 6:46

Academy of Music (Budapest, 11 February, 1958)

06 Schubert: Moment musical in C major, D. 780/1 5:26
07 Liszt: Gnomenreigen 2:31

Liszt: Liebesträume

08 No. 2 in E major 4:27
09 No. 3 in A flat major 4:29

Liszt: Valses oubliées

10 No. 1 2:34
11 No. 2 5:48
12 No. 3 4:47


13 Sonetto 123 del Petrarca 7:06

Bartók Hall (Budapest, 12 February, 1958)

Debussy: Ariettes oubliées
14 No. 1 C’est l’extase langoureuse 2:33
15 No. 5 (Aquarelles I.) - Green 2:44
Total time 1043:09

CD4 Richter in Hungary (1963)

Academy of Music (Budapest, 27 April, 1963)

Beethoven: Sonata in B-flat major, op. 22.

01 I. Allegro con brio 7:23
02 II. Adagio con molto espressione 8:46
03 III. Menuetto 3:13
04 IV. Rondo (Allegretto) 5:38

Schubert: Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946

05 1. Allegro assai - Andante - Tempo I. 15:31
06 2. Allegretto 12:17
07 3. Allegro 5:40

Schubert: Wanderer fantasy in C major, D. 760

08 I. Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo 5:29
09 II. Adagio 6:38
10 III. Presto 4:19
11 IV. Allegro 3:39
Total time 1043:09

CD5 Richter in Hungary (1963)

Erkel Theatre (Budapest, 29 April, 1963)

Händel: Suite No. 5 in E major

01 I. Prelude 1:29
02 II. Allemande 4:10
03 III. Courante 1:32
04 IV. Air and Five Variations 4:13

Shostakovich: Six preludes and fugues, op. 87

07 Prelude and fugue No. 12 in G-sharp minor - Prelude: Andante 4:36
08 Prelude and fugue No. 12 in G-sharp minor - Fugue: Allegro 3:23
11 Prelude and fugue No. 14 in E-flat minor - Prelude: Adagio 4:03
13 Prelude and fugue No. 17 in A-flat major - Prelude: Allegretto 2:11
16 Prelude and fugue No. 15 in D-flat major - Fugue: Allegro molto 2:00
14 Prelude and fugue No. 17 in A-flat major - Fugue: Allegretto 3:18
09 Prelude and fugue No. 23 in F major - Prelude: Adagio 2:37
10 Prelude and fugue No. 23 in F major - Fugue: Moderato con moto 2:53
12 Prelude and fugue No. 14 in E-flat minor - Fugue: Allegro non troppo 4:56
15 Prelude and fugue No. 15 in D-flat major - Prelude: Allegretto 2:51
05 Prelude and fugue No. 4 in E minor - Prelude: Andante 3:44
06 Prelude and fugue No. 4 in E minor - Fugue: Adagio 4:29

Prokofiev: Visions fugitives, op. 22

17 No. 3 Allegretto 1:18
18 No. 4 Animato 0:48
19 No. 5 Molto giocoso 0:35
20 No. 6 Con eleganza 0:25
21 No. 8 Commodo 1:32
22 No. 9 Allegretto tranquillo 1:25
23 No. 11 Con vivacitá 1:20
24 No. 14 Feroce 0:54
25 No. 15 Inquieto 0:41
26 No. 18 Con una dolce lentezza 1:47
Total time 1043:09

CD6 Richter in Hungary (1965)

Erkel Theatre (Budapest, 17 July, 1965)

Mozart: Piano sonata in F major, K. 280

01 I. Allegro assai 7:15
02 II. Adagio 10:12
03 III. Presto 3:30

Beethoven: Piano sonata in A major, op. 101

04 I. Etwas lebhaft und mit der innigsten Empfindung – Allegretto ma non troppo 4:25
05 II. Lebhaft. Marschmässig - Vivace alla marcia 5:23
06 III. Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll - Adagio, ma non troppo, con affetto 3:02
07 IV. Geschwinde, doch nicht zu sehr, und mit Entschlossenheit – Allegro 6:44

Chopin: Four scherzos

08 No. 1 in B minor, op. 20 10:16
09 No. 2 in B flat minor, op. 31 9:43
10 No. 3 in C sharp minor, op. 39 7:32
11 No. 4 in E major, op. 54 11:27
Total time 1043:09

CD7 Richter in Hungary (1967)

Erkel Theatre (Budapest, 27 August, 1967)


02 Novellette in D major, op. 21/2 5:29
01 Novellette in F major, op. 21/1 5:20

Erkel Theatre (Budapest, 28 August, 1967)

Haydn: Piano sonata in C major, Hob. XVI:35
03 I. Allegro con brio 6:25
04 II. Adagio 7:14
05 III. Finale. Allegro 3:10
06 Chopin: Rondo á la mazur 7:58

Debussy: Préludes for piano, Book II

07 I. Brouillards 3:21
08 II. Feuilles mortes 3:24
09 III. La puerta del Vino 3:50
10 IV. “Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses” 2:40
11 V. Bruyéres 2:45
12 VI. “General Lavine” – excentric 2:44
13 VII. La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune 4:38
14 VIII. Ondine 3:07
15 IX. Hommage á S. Pickwick Esq.P.P.M.P.C. 2:27
16 X. Canope 3:05
17 XI. Les tierces alternées 2:23
18 XII. Feux d’artifice 3:48
Total time 1043:09

CD8 Richter in Hungary (1969)

Academy of Music (Budapest, 18 November, 1969)
01 Schubert: Thirteen Variations on a Theme by Anselm Hüttenbrenner, D. 576 14:30

Schumann: Fantasiestücke, op. 12 (selection)

02 No. 1 Des Abends – Sehr innig zu spielen 4:16
03 No. 2 Aufschwung – Sehr rasch 2:52
04 No. 3 Warum? – Langsam und zart 3:31
05 No. 5 In der Nacht – Mit Leidenschaft 3:51
06 No. 7 Traumes-Wirren – Äusserst lebhaft 2:15
07 No. 8 Ende vom Lied – Mit gutem Humor 5:26

Rachmaninov: Préludes (selection)

13 E major, op. 32/3 1:08
14 B-flat minor, op. 32/2 3:00
15 F minor, op. 32/6 1:18
16 F major, op. 32/7 2:06
17 B-flat major, op. 23/2 3:17
18 D major, op. 23/4 4:09
19 G minor, op. 23/5 4:11
08 F-sharp minor, op. 23/1 3:56
09 A major, op. 32/9 2:30
10 B minor, op. 32/10 5:25
11 G-sharp minor, op. 32/12 2:17
12 A-flat major, op. 23/8 3:02


20 War and Peace – Waltz, op. 96/1 5:32
Total time 1043:09

CD9 Richter in Hungary (1973)

Academy of Music (Budapest, 16 March, 1973)

Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Book II (selection)

01 Prelude in C major 2:37
02 Fugue in C major 1:26
03 Prelude in C minor 1:42
04 Fugue in C minor 2:27
05 Prelude in C-sharp major 1:23
06 Fugue in C-sharp major 1:41
07 Prelude in C-sharp minor 3:42
08 Fugue in C-sharp minor 1:56
09 Prelude in E-flat major 2:19
10 Fugue in E-flat major 2:12
11 Prelude in D-sharp minor 3:06
12 Fugue in D-sharp minor 4:13
13 Prelude in G major 2:07
14 Fugue in G major 1:12
15 Prelude in A-flat major 3:06
16 Fugue in A-flat major 3:26
17 Prelude in A major 1:32
18 Fugue in A major 1:08
19 Prelude in A minor 4:26
20 Fugue in A minor 1:32
21 Prelude in B major 5:34
22 Fugue in B major 3:22
23 Prelude in B-flat minor 2:42
24 Fugue in B-flat minor 7:45
Academy of Music (Budapest, 18 March, 1973)


25 Prelude in B major 1:46
26 Prelude in B minor 2:12
27 Fugue in B minor 1:46
Total time 1043:09

CD10 Richter in Hungary (1972-78)

Szeged (16 February, 1972)

Mendelssohn: Lieder ohne Worte, op. 19

01 No. 1 Andante con moto 3:34
02 No. 2 Andante 2:18
03 No. 3 Molto allegro e vivace 2:19
04 No. 5 Moderato 2:46
05 No. 6 Andante sostenuto 3:11


06 Nocturne in B-flat minor, op. 9/1 6:41

Debussy: Images, Book I

07 No. 1 Reflets dans l’eau 4:29
08 No. 2 Hommage á Rameau 7:26
09 No. 3 Mouvement 3:30


10 Hommage á Haydn 2:34

Academy of Music (Budapest, 10 December, 1976)

11 F major, op. 34/3 2:00
12 G-flat major, op. 70/1 3:08
Chopin: Two waltzes

Chopin: Four mazurkas

13 C-sharp minor, op. 63/3 1:54
14 C major, op. 67/3 1:15
15 F major, op. 68/3 1:12
16 A minor, op. post. 3:31

Academy of Music (Budapest, 10 August, 1978)

17 I. Allegro moderato 12:06
18 II. Andante 6:30
19 III. Allegro 7:02
Schubert: Piano sonata in A major, D. 664
Total time 1043:09

CD11 Richter in Hungary (1976)

Academy of Music (Budapest, 9 December, 1976)

Beethoven: Sonata in F minor, op. 2/1

01 I. Allegro 5:49
02 II. Adagio 4:34
03 III. Menuetto (Allegretto) 3:51
04 IV. Prestissimo 6:33

Beethoven: Sonata in D major, op. 10/3

05 I. Presto 6:54
06 II. Largo e mesto 9:17
07 III. Menuetto (Allegro) 3:06
08 IV. Rondo (Allegro) 4:22

Beethoven: Sonata in E major, op. 14/1

09 I. Allegro 7:07
10 II. Allegretto 6:00
11 III. Rondo (Allegro commodo) 3:05

Beethoven: Sonata in A-flat major, op. 26

12 I. Andante con variazioni 6:46
13 II. Scherzo (Allegro molto) 3:01
14 III. Marcia funebre sulla morte d’un Eroe 5:59
15 IV. Allegro 2:44
Total time 1043:09

CD12 Richter in Hungary (1982-85)

Pesti Vigadó (Budapest, 11 September, 1982)
01 Liszt: Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (excerpt) No. 9 Andante lagrimoso 8:18
02 Franck: Prélude, choral et fugue 19:38

Szymanowski: Mazurkas

03 op. 50/1 2:15
04 op. 50/17 2:32
05 op. 50/18 3:11
06 op. 50/3 3:15

Opera House (Budapest, 14 January, 1985)

07 No. 1 Danseuses de Delphes 3:29
08 No. 2 Voiles 3:53
09 No. 3 Le vent dans la plaine 2:10
10 No. 4 “Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir” 4:07
11 No. 5 Les collines d’Anacapri 3:43
12 No. 6 Des pas sur la neige 4:24
13 No. 7 Ce qu’a a vu le Vent d’Ouest 3:38
14 No. 9 La sérénade interrompue 3:09
15 No. 10 La Cathédrale engloutie 7:08
16 No. 11 La danse de Puck 2:48
Debussy: Préludes, Book I (selection)
Total time 1043:09

CD13 Richter in Hungary (1983)

Academy of Music (Budapest, 3 August, 1983)

Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, op. 37/b (selection)

01 May: White Nights 4:50
02 June: Barcarolle 6:19
03 November: On the Troika 2:55
04 January: By the Hearth 6:09

Tchaikovsky: Piano pieces

05 Nocturne in F major, op. 10/1 4:36
06 Valse-scherzo in A major, op. 7 4:03
07 Humoresque in E minor, op. 10/2 2:42
09 Valse in A-flat major, op. 40/8 3:31
08 Capriccioso in B-flat major, op. 19/5 3:58
10 Romance in F minor, op. 5 7:22

Rachmaninov: Études-Tableaux (selection)

11 C-sharp minor, op. 33/9 2:59
12 D minor, op. 33/5 3:21
13 E-flat minor, op. 33/6 2:07
14 C minor, op. 39/1 3:05
15 A minor, op. 39/2 7:38
16 F-sharp minor, op. 39/3 3:00
17 B minor, op. 39/4 3:43
18 D major, op. 39/9 3:55
Total time 1043:09

CD14 Richter in Hungary (1993)

Budapest Congress Center (9 November, 1993)

Grieg: Lyric pieces

01 Arietta, op. 12/1 1:23
02 Vals (Waltz), op. 12/2 2:00
03 Vektersang (Watchman’s Song), op. 12/3 2:59
04 Alfedans (Elves’ Dance), op. 12/4 0:57
05 Springdans (Spring Dance), op. 38/5 0:55
06 Kanon (Canon), op. 38/8 4:57
07 Sommerfugl (Butterfly), op. 43/1 1:59
08 Til Foraret (To the Spring), op. 43/6 5:18
09 Valse-Impromptu, op. 47/1 3:21
10 Gangar (Norwegian march), op. 54/2 3:51
11 Scherzo, op. 54/5 3:33
12 Klokkeklang (Bell ringing), op. 54/6 3:48
13 Hemmelighed (Secret), op. 57/4 5:30
14 Hun danser (She Dances), op. 57/5 3:11
15 Hjemve (Homesickness), op. 57/6 5:12
16 Drommesyn (Phantom), op. 62/5 2:41
17 Bryllupsdag pa Troldhaugen (Wedding day in Troldhaugen), op. 65/6 6:35
18 Aften pa hojfjellet (Evening in the Mountains), op. 68/4 3:32
19 Smatroll (Puck), op. 71/3 2:00
20 Skovstilhed (Peace in the Woods), op. 71/4 5:14
21 Forbi (Gone), op. 71/6 2:34
22 Efterklang (Remembrances), op. 71/7 2:32
Total time 1043:09

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Richter’s Life and Career

Right from the beginning of his career, stories abounded of Richter’s withdrawn, mysterious personality and the events of his far from ordinary life. Though he concerned himself little with the outside world, in his old age he became more irritated by the legends that were spreading about him, and he asked Bruno Monsaingeon, an outstanding documentary filmmaker, to write his biography. From Richter’s own narrative, diary and many available authentic documents, Monsaingeon compiled a film and later a book about the pianist (Richter. Ecrits, conversations, Éditions Van de Velde / Actes sud / Arte Éditions, 1998). The biography below is based mainly on data from this book.

Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter was born on 20 March 1915 (7 March according to the old Russian calendar) in Zhytomyr into a family with German ancestors on the paternal side, and Russian on the maternal. His grandfather had moved to Ukraine from Polish territory; his father was born in Zhytomyr, studied piano and composition at the Academy of Music in Vienna, and became a piano teacher at the Odessa Conservatoire. His mother Anna Pavlovna Moskalyova came from a Russian aristocratic family, with Polish-Swedish-Tatar roots. Both Russian and German were spoken at home. After Richter was born, they moved to Odessa.

As a child Richter often drew and painted, and these passions lasted into adulthood. An avid reader, he devoured the works of Gogol, Tolstoy and Dickens, and read poetry and drama. At the age of nine he even tried his own hand at writing drama, and at composition even earlier. A few visits to the opera in Odessa had an immense effect on him. He started to teach himself piano, and was soon playing works by Chopin and Beethoven, and operas by Wagner and Verdi. In 1931 he started to work as an accompanist for the Odessa Philharmonic, playing for singers, instrumentalists and artistes. From 1932 he worked as répétiteur for amateur opera performances in the House of Sailors, and from 1933 worked in the Odessa Opera House. His first solo recital, on 19 March 1934 in the Engineers Club in Odessa, comprised Chopin works.

In 1937, at the age of 22, he travelled to Moscow to enrol in the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire with the famous teacher Heinrich Neuhaus, whom he had heard give several recitals in Odessa. Neuhaus, who was then rector of the Conservatoire, admitted him after one audition, and in subsequent years always stood by him as his most talented pupil, even when Richter was threatened with expulsion for not fulfilling examination requirements. Starting in 1939, Richter was a regular performer at student concerts. In October 1940, in a joint recital with Neuhaus, he played Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 6, a concert he considered the first public performance of his life. It was here that he met Prokofiev in person, and the composer asked him to play his Piano Concerto No. 5. Richter’s first solo recital was advertised for October 1941, but due to the German invasion the concert was postponed until July 1942, when he played Beethoven, Schubert, and Prokofiev. In 1941 he played with an orchestra in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, as the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s B-flat minor Piano Concerto.

In his early years in Moscow he met a half-Russian, half-French singer, Nina Dorliac, whom he married in the 1940s, and who remained his faithful artistic and life-long companion until his death fifty years later. Following the war Richter was for a long time under the impression that his parents had died. Much later he learnt that his father, as a German, had been shot dead by the Soviet secret police in summer 1941, before the German troops marched into Odessa, while his mother had emigrated to Western Germany with her second husband.

Richter made his first radio recording in 1942 in Moscow, and radio broadcasts and recordings became a regular feature for him. His increasingly frequent Moscow performances were from 1943 on followed by wartime ‘tours’. In the towns behind the front he was acutely aware of his dual identity: the Russians saw him as German, the Germans as Russian. In December 1945 he won the All-Soviet Union Piano Competition, sharing the first prize with Viktor Merzhanov (because at the last moment Molotov telephoned Shostakovich, the chairman of the jury, to prevent the winner from being a German). In the years that followed he reaped so much success, that by 1950 he had collected almost every award: Artist of Merit of the Soviet Union, Socialist Worker Hero, and the Stalin and Lenin Prizes.

He performed abroad for the first time in 1950, in Czechoslovakia. After Stalin died, opportunities to perform abroad slowly opened up to Richter: first in eastern-bloc countries, and much later, from the age of forty-five, in the West too. In 1954 and the following years he toured in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and China. Because of his German origins and his mother’s emigration it was only after much wrangling and with special permission from Khrushchev that he was able to travel in May 1960 to Finland, and in October to the USA. Immense expectations preceded his debuts in America and western Europe, because the previous Soviet artists to travel west, Emil Gilels and David Oistrakh, and the American artists who had performed in Moscow, Glenn Gould and Jenő Ormándy, had told of his talent. After the enormously successful American concerts, in the early 1960s he travelled to most west European countries, from Italy to Scandinavia. He did not perform in West Berlin until 1967, and in towns in West Germany in 1971. He first travelled to Japan in 1970. In his Japanese tour of 1979, Yahama gave Richter a concert grand, which they transported to wherever he was staying. From July to December 1986 he made a grand concert tour of the East Asia, in which he visited many smaller towns in Siberia.

Richter followed this unique travelling-performing lifestyle until his death at the age of 80. Since he loathed aeroplanes, he travelled by train or car, and stopped intermittently for concerts. He never took on teaching or gave master classes, but took pleasure in playing with young up-and-coming artists such as Yuri Bashmet, Oleg Kagan, Natalia Gutman, Zoltán Kocsis, Anatoli Gavrilov, or Elisabeth Leonskaya. Though he made discs from time to time, compared to the number of his concert performances the quantity of his recordings is negligible. Unless he was ill, he gave 80–100 concerts a year. Rather than the famous, grand concert halls of the world, he preferred the more intimate halls of small towns, and sought after new, less formal ways to give concerts. In 1964, at his instigation, the Fętes musicales de Touraine was created, in the town of Grange de Meslay, where for the duration of the festival a thirteenth-century barn functioned as a concert hall. Richter regularly invited his friends and musicians and ensembles he admired to the Tours festival, and performed himself with David Oistrakh, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Zoltán Kocsis, Elisabeth Leonskaya and several chamber orchestras, including the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra. It was also Richter who in 1980 organized the annual December evenings in the Puskin Museum in Moscow, a celebratory meeting of music and the visual arts.

He kept a careful diary of his travels and concert programmes, according to which he performed at 3589 recitals. He gave his last concert a few days after his eightieth birthday, on 30 March 1995 in Lübeck. He wanted to return to the concert platform several times, but he was prevented by illness. He died on 1 August 1997 in Moscow.

Richter’s Art

Not only was Richter one of the most important pianists of the twentieth century: he was a great personality, who drew his audience into his aura of refinement, determining the taste of whole generations and their concepts about music and culture. He was one of the few performers whose playing is recognizable even from a poor quality recording, because his strikingly individual touch is inimitable and unrepeatable. He sometimes said that he was nothing but a tool in the hand of creation, a mirror that conveys and reflects the ideas of others, of the greatest creators, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann. His modesty was clearly a sign of his greatness, as was his exceptionally severe self-criticism. The standards he exacted of himself and his partners is shown by the fact that in his later career he hardly played with large orchestras at all, because he could not rehearse enough with them; he preferred to play with chamber orchestras and musicians.

His heritage is enormous, not just psychologically, but in terms of quantity: thousands of discs, mainly concert recordings, a part of which have already appeared, the rest in the process of being gradually released. His repertoire stretched from the works of Bach and Handel to the piano works of twentieth-century composers, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Myaskovsky, Stravinsky, Berg, Webern, and Britten. He played over eight hundred works, including orchestral, chamber and solo pieces, but not counting the almost six hundred songs he accompanied. Interestingly, his interest in certain composers and works intensified in certain periods. For instance, he learnt Liszt’s B minor sonata at the end of the 1930s as a pupil of Neuhaus, but did not perform it in recitals until the mid-60s. The music of Bach, the Well-Tempered Clavier, the English and French Suites were frequently on his programmes from the 1940s to the early 70s, then after a long hiatus he returned to Bach in 1991. The works of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and Debussy ran throughout his career. He gave acute attention, particularly as an ageing artist, to oddities such as Liszt’s late works, and pieces by Grieg, Hindemith, and Szymanowski.

He put compiled his recital programmes with extreme care. Hungarian musicians noted that the Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven works and Chopin encores in his first Budapest solo recital had the following key pattern: C minor / C major, C minor / F major, F minor / A major, A minor / F major, F minor / C minor, C major, C minor. He played only those pieces that interested him, quiet happily omitting movements from a series. He selected six pieces from Schumann’s eight-part Fantasiestücke, five parts from the six-part first book of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words cycle, a selection of Chopin’s 24 Preludeswhich he performed in his own individual order, and likewise with Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, ignoring the composer’s disapproval. In cyclic form he played only the two volumes of the Well-Tempered Clavier, and Debussy’s second book of Préludes. He did not programme popular Beethoven sonatas such as the op. 27 Mondschein, the op. 53 Waldstein or the op. 81a Les Adieux, but often played less well-known sonatas, performing the op. 10 D major three times in Budapest. On his own admittance, Mozart remained unapproachable for him, though he willingly (but rarely) played Haydn. He was particularly drawn to Prokofiev’s music, and from 1943 premiered several of his works, and he is the dedicatee of the Piano Sonata No. 9. In March 1953, when Richter had to return suddenly from Tbilisi to Moscow to play along with the most famous Soviet artists at Stalin’s funeral, he learnt of Prokofiev’s death on the plane, and over the next few days set down his memories of Prokofiev.

Richter’s motions, the externalities of his performing habits gradually simplified with time, and by the late 1980s the ‘demonic’ artist had become a musician exploiting minimal movements, observing the score and his inner self; the Richterian flame became an inner glow, while his basic concept of the individual musical works changed hardly at all. Through his frequent performances in Hungary the Budapest audience had the opportunity to hear how he played Bach in 1954, 1973 and 1991, how he played Schubert’s D. 958 C minor Sonata in 1958 and 1973, the D. 664 A major Sonata in 1958 and twenty years later, how Beethoven’s op. 10 D major Sonata sounded in his hands in summer 1967 and December 1976.

Bruno Monsaingeon, who perhaps knew Richter better than anyone, once said of the pianist in Hungary: ‘His face betrays much when he plays. A deep world of sentiment, but concealed, apparently unfeeling. In any case free of every kind of sentimental expression. He was a particularly original personality of the twentieth century. He was able to remain untouched by the Soviet regime, but he was undefiled by Western civilization too. He was independent of time, era, independent of fashion – and this gave him incredible force. Force, but not in the sense of violence. His power was a kind of passive force, a passive resistance. He remained unapproachable for decades; he wasn’t interested in newspapers, or the news of the day. He remained free of any entrepreneurial spirit, free of the spirit of our time. But he had a far deeper insight than us into the universe, due not only to his culture, but also to his natural and simple worldview.’

Richter in Hungary, the Richter recordings of the Hungarian Radio

From his very first appearances Richter became a treasured favourite of the Hungarian audience, whose return was always eagerly awaited, and who did return – every two or three years for four decades. Several times he made a sudden decision to stop in Budapest, and even without the concert’s being advertised the public rushed in. He gave a total of 28 recitals in the capital, and 13 in the provinces, in Miskolc, Győr, Pécs, Szombathely, Sopron, Veszprém, Debrecen, and Szeged, and in addition played as soloist in 11 orchestral concerts and 8 concerts partnering singers, instrumentalists and chamber ensembles – Nina Dorliac, Mark Reizen, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Yuri Bashmet, and the Tchaikovsky and Tátrai Quartets.

From the first concerts in 1954, Hungarian Radio recorded most of Richter’s Budapest concerts and some of his appearances outside Budapest. At first they broadcast everything in his performances uninhibitedly, in the 1950s and 60s even airing each programmed item separately, editing out the applause and often the dying away of the final notes too. Starting with the Bach recitals in 1973 Richter no longer permitted his concerts to be broadcast live, and after each concert designated which parts of the programme could be aired and what could not. This publication respects the artist’s wishes in this regard; for instance, due to his prohibition this series does not include the performance (excellent, incidentally) of the Szymanowski sonata given in Budapest in 1982. From the 1970s on, several series compiled from Richter’s concerts in Hungary were broadcast on Hungarian Radio. This series is the first such to be released on disc; until now a handful of his concerts in Hungary had been available only on pirate CDs, and mostly of questionable sound quality. The fourteen CDs include eight of Richter’s Budapest concerts in their entirety, and selections from his other appearances in Hungary.

CD 1 - CD 2

The 1954 Concerts, Budapest

In early March 1954, as part of the ‘Month of Soviet-Hungarian Friendship’, Richter arrived in Budapest as a member of a large Soviet delegation of artists. The 39-year-old pianist was completely unknown at the time to the Hungarian public, but in a matter of moments he had Budapest music-lovers enraptured. Many legends later circulated about his first Budapest concerts: that these were his first appearances abroad; that the Great Hall of the Music Academy had to be filled with soldiers and students for the first concert, because nobody was interested in the unknown Soviet pianist; that in the interval of his first solo recital Budapest telephone were jammed as everyone tried to call their friends and acquaintances to come to the Academy of Music, because they’d never heard the like; that during the performance of Beethoven’s Appassionata the bewitched audience gradually stood up and listened to the pianist in amazement.

In spring 1954 Richter performed in Hungary twelve times: he performed as soloist in four orchestral concerts, played chamber music with the Tchaikovsky Quartet also visiting from Moscow, gave two solo recitals, two small concerts for young people, one in Győr with the singer Mark Reizen, and two invitation-only concerts.

On 8 March Richter made his first joint appearance with the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra with János Ferencsik, in which he performed Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor (op. 54, 1841–45) and as an encore pieces from Johannes Brahms’ Klavierstücke op. 118 (1892). As the soloist in the concerto, besides the utter perfection and the sparkling virtuosity of his playing, it now became apparent that he had a special sensitivity for Schumann’s music, and furthermore an outstanding attentiveness towards his partners, the orchestra and conductor: the merit for the delicate undulation of the balance and proportion of sound on this recording goes to both Richter and Ferencsik. ‘I was very pleased to be able to perform with János Ferencsik,’ said the pianist after a concert in the journal Sovetskaya Kultura. ‘In our joint appearance we managed to create the kind of unfettered soaring, and yet a close relationship, that rarely comes into being between conductor and soloist.

The programme of his solo recital on 10 March included half a dozen preludes and fugues from Book I of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (BWV 847, 856, 857, 864, 865, 1722), Bach’s French Suite in C minor (BWV 813, from the 1720s) a Mozart sonata, Beethoven’s Appasionataand for encore, three pieces by Chopin. The Bach of the ‘young’ Richter (he was 39 at the time) was typified by puritanical clarity, pregnant and rigorous shaping, and monochrome dynamics. In an interview to the review Új Zenei Szemle Richter spoke interestingly about questions of style in playing Bach, still pertinent today: ‘To penet-rate deep into the essence of the work entails attempting to conjure up the atmosphere of the era, the contemporary sound. I am not thinking here of slavish imitation of the sound of early instruments, such as the harpsichord, but the creation of the atmosphere surrounding the work. In spite of this, my opinion is that some of Bach’s works should be performed on a harpsichord, and I would gladly do so myself, if I had access to a suitable instrument.’

Richter’s second solo recital on 26 March comprised works by Prokofiev and Ravel. His first public performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 8 (op. 84, 1939–44) had been in Moscow in 1944. In a piece he wrote on the composer, Richter said of the composition: ‘Of all Prokofiev’s sonatas, this is the richest. It has a complex inner life, replete with deep contradictions. At times it seems to freeze, as if to surrender itself to the implacable passing of time. It is difficult to access, precisely because of its richness – like a tree dripping heavy with fruit.’ In his 1954 Budapest concert the Prokofiev work sounded in all its splendour. The rest of the official programme included three pieces by Maurice Ravel: the Pavane pour une infante défunte (1899), the second piece of Gaspard de la nuit, Le gibet (1908) and the Valses nobles et sentimentales(1911), and by way of encore Richter played a half-concert’s-worth of Prokofiev, Ravel and Rachmaninov works, of which this disc features two pieces by Ravel: Jeux d’eau (1901) and the fourth piece of the Miroirs cycle, the Alborada del gracioso (1905). The clear contours, classical part writing and archaicisms of Ravel’s piano music in Richter’s performances took on a similarly clear, simple, rhythmic and pregnant form, like the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, with a multitude of colours, shades of touch, and sparkling virtuosity.

CD 3

The 1958 Concerts, Budapest

In February 1958 Richter appeared seven times: in addition to two large-scale solo recitals and an invitation-only event he gave two concerts with his wife Nina Dorliac, a chamber music recital with the Tátrai Quartet, and as a soloist with the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra, he played piano concertos by Mozart and Brahms in the Erkel Theatre, conducted by András Kórody. At his first solo recital on 9 February in the Great Hall of the Academy of Music he performed Schubert’s Sonata in C minor, Schumann’s Toccata in C major and Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, with encores by Rachmaninov and Debussy, and at the second on 11 February he played the Schubert A major Sonata, the C major Moment Musical, three impromptus and works by Liszt.

Richter played Franz Schubert’s four-movement late C minor sonata (D. 958, 1828) in Budapest in February 1958 and March 1973. Though the difference between the earlier and the later interpretation is enormous, the tempos and time proportions of the two performances are similar, and reflect the same basic conception, namely: the intensification of Schubertian wanderer music into a flight from pursuers, and the transformation of longed-for happiness into mere illusion, a scheme which Richter conveyed with wonderful poetry on both occasions. The earlier Schubert interpretation is perhaps more aloof, yet it is more technically compact, and the characteristic subito forte and piano effectshave great impact. The Toccata in C major by Robert Schumann (op. 7, 1833) is played at a rattling tempo, with extraordinary dynamism and fervour.

Richter’s second 1958 solo recital also included magical pieces by Schubert; rather than this early recording of the A major Sonata (D. 664) this series includes the later one made at the 1978 Budapest concert (CD 10). In his performance of Schubert’s C major Moment Musical (D. 780/1, 1828) simple beauty is combined with an enormous dynamic intensity. But the real sensation of the concert for the Hungarian audience was the series of Liszt pieces. In his own characteristic manner he mingled the highly popular virtuoso works with the rarefied atmosphere of Liszt’s later compositions. Franz Liszt’s second Concert Etude, Gnomenreigen (Dance of the Gnomes, 1863) shows the artist’s astounding virtuosity. In Richter’s interpretation, the sentimental banality of Liebesträume (Dreams of Love, 1845–50, three Notturni, transcriptions of Liszt songs), is ennobled to music with a powerful inner charge. Particularly beautiful is the poetry that radiates from the expressive rendition of the Petrarch Sonnet 123 (Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième annee: Italie, 1838–39/1850). The performance of the three Valses oubliées (1881–83) is characterized by pregnant rhythms, brilliant runs, trills, repeated notes and outstandingly sensitive touch. Hungarian critics could not help but conclude that Richter’s playing is just as unique in its own way, as Franz Liszt’s must have been in his time.

In Dorliac and Richter’s Song recital on 12 February, the songs sung in the original language shone out: Modest Musorgsky’s The Nursery and songs from Claude Debussy’s series Ariettes oubliées (1888), which lent themselves especially well to Nina Dorliac’s supple, light soprano, and Richter’s accompaniment underlined the character of the music even more and created perfectly attuned chamber music.

In autumn 1958 and 1961 Richter appeared in orchestral concerts in Budapest, as the soloist in Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Liszt’s A major Piano Concerto. At the Liszt concert, by way of an encore he played the Hungarian Fantasy with the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra conducted by János Ferencsik, earning riotous applause.

CD 4 - CD 5

The 1963 Concerts, Budapest

Having arrived from Vienna, Richter gave a solo recital on 27 and 29 April 1963 in the Academy of Music and the Erkel Theatre respectively, and on 30 April performed in Debrecen. The programme of the two Budapest concerts is radically different, while the Debrecen programme is a combination of the two.

The programme for the concert in the Music Academy on 27 April featured a Beethoven sonata, followed by works by Schubert almost or wholly unknown to the Hungarian audience. In his performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s B-flat major Sonata (op. 22, 1799/1800) the many faces of the master from Bonn are clearly apparent: in the first movement the unbridled vivacity of the young Beethoven – in Richter’s ‘clamp’, the elegantly polished social style of the minuet and the closing rondo, and the Adagio, which on his piano Richter plays in the countless shades between pianissimo and mezzopiano, the voice of rumination and suffering. Franz Schubert’s Drei Klavierstücke (D. 946, 1828) date from the year of the composer’s death, and each of them is built on intricate melodies of infinite tormentation and boundless peace; Richter played them as a minstrel recounting his own ballad to the audience. The notorious technical difficulties of the C major Wanderer Fantasy are charged with substance in Richter’s performance, and the public at the Music Academy witnessed several descents to hell and cathartic purifications.

The programme of his 29 April concert spans the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. His performance of Georg Friedrich Händel’s four-movement Suite in E major (No. 5, 1720) moves from a grand, Romantic, heavily pedalled Prelude to increasingly puritan simplicity, and Richter plays the complex ornaments of the closing variation movement with utter clarity. The Händel suite is linked by key to the first of Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues, in E minor, written more than two centuries later. The six pieces selected from Dmitri Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues (op. 87, 1952) are a visionary Richterian combination, which ignores the original order completely (no. 4 in E minor, no. 12 in G-sharp minor, no. 23 in F major, no. 14 in E-flat minor, no. 17 in A-flat major and no. 15 in D-flat major), and whose basic principle is the contrast of each piece: after delicate, sensitive, intricate music comes a concise bass variation and a snappy fugue; after introverted music, extrovert. In Richter’s performance these Shostakovich pieces sound perfectly simple and natural, yet highly colourful. Another individual, colourful and varied compilation was the ten pieces he played from the series of twenty of Sergei Prokofiev’s Мимолетности (Visions Fugitives, op. 22, 1915–17), which Richter presented to the audience in three small ‘bouquets’ to the raving public, showing how different the flowers Russian-Soviet music had put forth in the gardens of Shostakovich and Prokofiev.

CD 6

1965, Budapest

In summer 1965 Richter travelled the breadth of Hungary: on 16 July he played in Szombathely, on the 17th in Budapest and on the 21st in Miskolc. Much of the programme of the Szombathely concert was also played in Budapest, but he gave the public a completely different offering in Miskolc: here he played, for the only time on Hungarian territory, the Liszt B minor Sonata. No recording was made of the Miskolc concert.

The programme of the solo recital in the Erkel Theatre included works by Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin. Richter played the outer movements of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s three-movement F major Sonata (K. 280, 1774) with poetry but restraint, as if playing Haydn on an eighteenth-century instrument; the great surprise pauses in the closing movement also gave this impression. But the ruminative performance of the great central slow movement tipped Mozart’s music in a Schubertian direction. The grand interpretation of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata in A major (op. 101, 1816) with its free treatment of agogics, revealed the enormous contrasts of the work: from the contemplative opening movement through the volatile march, the marvellously peaceful and restrained slow movement, to the flexible rhythms and impish elements of the finale, crowned with a fugue – he cast the sonata in one single arc. In Frédéric Chopin’s Four Scherzos (B minor, op. 20, 1831–32, B-flat minor, op. 31, 1837, C-sharp minor, op. 39, and E major, op. 54, 1842) Richter boldly emphasized the light and shade of Chopin’s music, creating huge contrast between the racing main themes and the calm central sections.

CD 7

The 1967 Concerts

Once more, Richter arrived unexpectedly in summer to surprise the Budapest audiences with two concerts on successive evenings in the Erkel Theatre with completely different programmes.

After the large-scale Beethoven–Schubert programme of 27 August Richter took his leave of the public with a lyrically soaring performance of two Schumann Novelettes (F major and D major op. 21, 1838); many considered the two encores to be the most memorable moment of the concert. On 28 August he played Haydn, Chopin and Debussy, unravelling the hidden threads that bind together these three great composers of keyboard music, each from a different culture. Joseph Haydn’s Sonata in C major (Hob.XVI:35, 1779–80) strikes a note of classical beauty and clarity, with transparent texture on Richter’s piano. Similar clarity, natural impetus, and flexible mazurka rhythms with delicate ornamentation characterize a performance of a less well-known early work by Frédéric Chopin, the Rondeau à la mazur (op. 5, 1826). After the Ballade in G minor, in Claude Debussy’s Twelve Preludes (Book II, 1910–13) Richter continued and consummated the concert with pastel tints of musical colours, the pianistic novelties, and nuanced gradations of tone-colour. This series of twelve pieces, each strikingly individual in its relation to the series and highly varied within itself, satisfied even Richter’s high dramaturgic demands, so – unusually for him – he played the entire Book IIof Debussy’s Préludes in the original order, to the great delight of the audience.

In autumn 1967 Richter returned to Budapest, and on 18 September performed Britten’s Piano Concerto with the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by János Ferencsik.

CD 8

1969, Budapest

In November 1969 Richter again arrived in Hungary from the West: after performing in Sopron and Veszprém, he gave two concerts in the Great Hall of the Budapest Music Academy. This time the programme of the four concerts was almost identical: after Schubert variations and a selection from Schumann’s Fantasiestücke there followed 12 Rachmaninov Preludes, and at the second Budapest concert Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 8.

The solo recital in the Music Academy on 18 November was perhaps Richter’s most successful Budapest concert, with its intellectually and technically perfect performances, its every moment an enthralling experience. He once more produced an unknown work by Franz Schubert: Thirteen Variations on a Theme by Anselm Hüttenbrenner (D. 576, 1817), a fairly early composition, with a very simple theme (reminiscent of the opening melody of the slow movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7), and after some charming figured variations the gates of heaven and hell are flung open. With the six pieces from Robert Schumann’s series of Fantasiestücke (op. 12, 1837), Richter’s Schumann reached its highest peak: he saw Schumann’s world as one infinitely broad, in which demented passion and profound calm could coexist, all in a crystal-clear form – similarly, though in quite a different manner, to Schubert’s music. ‘Whoever would have thought that an almost tangible musical question mark could be drawn in the concert hall’s incandescent air?’ wrote one Hungarian critic of the performance of Warum? (Why?). The performance of the twelve preludes, selected from Sergei Rachmaninov’s op. 23 (1903–04) and op. 32 (1910) series with the characteristic Richterian sense of drama persuaded the Hungarian public, who had until then looked down somewhat on the Russian composer, of Rachmaninov’s true value; he showed the full significance of the unusual harmonies, the character now veiled, now full of bold feeling, the colour that hovers on the border between dream and reality. One of the encores to the concert was one of the few transcriptions that Richter was willing to play (and how splendidly!) – the Waltz from Sergei Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace (op. 91, 1944).

In 1972 Richter’s journey bisected Hungary from north to south: in the morning of 16 February he stopped off in Debrecen to practise (which in the small green room behind the great hall of the local Music School all the teachers, young and old alike, listened to with bated breath), and that evening performed in Szeged, the following day in Subotica (Yugoslavia); the treasures of the Szeged concert are contained in Disc 10. In 1973 he performed in Budapest in both spring and autumn: in March he gave two Bach recitals, and in a third played two grand late Schubert sonatas, whilst in October he gave a memorable concert with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau of Hugo Wolf’s Mörike Lieder.

CD 9

The 1973 Bach Concerts

On 13 and 15 March in the Great Hall of the Budapest Music Academy Richter played the entire Book II of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (BWV 870–903, 1738–42) right through. After the two concerts he gave precise designations to the staff of Hungarian Radio what could and could not be broadcast; some of the preludes and fugues from the encores he played so that they could be used to substitute for a performance (in his view) a less than satisfactory. The compilation on this disc was made on the basis of the approved selection by the pianist.

Richter played Bach with the same simplicity and conciseness in 1973 as he had in 1954; yet his tone had changed, becoming more colourful and saturated with emotion, the scale of colour running from whispered pianissimos to mezzo forte, in a thousand gradations of tone and touch. He played the piano with the lid down, which depending on the character of each prelude and fugue sounded now like a domestic clavichord, now like a ringing harpsichord, now like a normal hammer-action piano. In pieces of every character – the calm, contemplative works muted with the una corda pedal (such as the C-sharp major and C-sharp minor preludes, the D-sharp minor and A-flat major fugues and the A minor prelude), the bright, energetic pieces (such as the C major fugue, the C minor prelude, the C-sharp minor, E-flat major, A major, A minor, and B minor fugues), and the playful dance-like movements (the C-sharp major fugue, the E-flat major, G major and B major preludes) the parts weave perfectly clearly, each one with its own colour and life, while the whole composition takes firm shape in Richter’s performance.

At the end of 1974 Richter gave two concerts in Pécs, and in April 1975 appeared in Győr. In December 1976 he played two recitals in the Budapest Music Academy, a mostly new programme of Beethoven sonatas and Schumann and Chopin works never before heard by him in Hungary. In spring 1977 he appeared in Debrecen, and in August 1978 once more in the capital, en route, with a Schubert, Schumann and Debussy programme.

CD 10

Excerpts from the 1972 Szeged, and 1976 and 1978 Budapest concerts

The recording of the legendary Szeged concert is only slightly marred by the less than perfect instrument and acoustic environment. After Schubert’s magnificent late C minor Sonata, which Richter also played in Budapest in 1958, then in 1973, a rarely heard gem followed: five pieces from Volume I of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Songs without Words (op. 19b, 1830). In Richter’s hands these small poetic pieces sound in all their lyrical beauty, with some heart-stopping dramatic moments. Frédéric Chopin’s early B-flat minor Nocturne (op. 9, 1830) also sang out with wonderful lyricism. The continuation was an organic progression, with the three pieces of Book I of Claude Debussy’s Images roaming through the broad world of the magic of nature, a ballad-like vision, and a perpetuum mobile. The encores included one unusual piece by Debussy, the Hommage à Haydn.

On 10 December 1976 in the Academy of Music after the Beethoven sonata and the Schumann work he played pieces by Frédéric Chopin. In the F major Waltz (op. 34, 1831) Richter conveyed the dizziness of the dance with capricious rhythms and marked accentuation, and in the D-flat major Waltz(op. 70, 1829), its gentle lilt and singing character. The four Mazurkas are played with impressive simplicity and beauty, with refined yet striking ornamentation.

Franz Schubert’s earlier A major Sonata (D. 664, 1819) commenced and continued with such sweet, calm singing tones in the summer 1978 concert in Budapest, one would think life’s dark powers, Richter’s demons, did not exist. Even the heavy octaves in the left hand merged into this gentle character, and in the closing movement there shone sunshine and humour.

CD 11

The 1976 Beethoven Recital in the Budapest Music Academy

The concert of 9 December could be entitled ‘The Character Development of Young Beethoven’ or ‘Bildungsroman: between Classicism and Romanticism, from 1795 to 1801’. Richter played the opening movement of the op. 2 F minor Sonata (1795) at a surprisingly slow tempo, in a classicizing manner, and the Adagio’s infinite calm showed no sign of swerving off this course. Greater contrasts sounded in the Minuet, and with the fervid scurrying of the closing Prestissimo the audience was transported to the world of Schubert. In his performance of the first movement of the op. 10 D major Sonata (1796–98) was apparent the rich thematic variety, the emotional world and the expansion of the register of the fully-developed Beethovenian sonata form process. In the Largo e mesto the deepest of sorrows was expressed with the simplest of means. With the enormous change to the delicate song of the Minuet and the playfully cheerful Rondo (though not devoid of scare tactics), he placed the mature Beethoven on the Music Academy stage. The op. 14 E major Sonata (1798) once more takes us back to the world of Classical proportion and clarity, spiced up with a few Richterian ‘thunderbolts’, and with a feverish drive to the closing rondo. The opening set of variations of the op. 26 A-flat major Sonata (1800–01) seems in Richter’s interpretation to presage the piano music of Schumann. In place of the second-movement minuet stands a scherzo, initially gentle, but increasingly wild, and after the grave, solemn, but clear and transparent playing of the Marcia funebre, lamenting the death of a hero, the finale starts enigmatically but playfully, to become a dramatic chase, a terrifying sprint.

In summer 1980 Richter arrived in Hungary from the east, and appeared with the same programme in Miskolc and Budapest. On 11 and 12 September 1982 he surprised the audience in the Pest Vigadó concert hall with unusual works: after rarely-heard pieces by Liszt he played Franck and Szymanowski. In summer 1983 he arrived with another unconventional programme, compiled of Tchaikovsky’s piano music and pieces from Rachmaninov’s cycle of Études-Tableaux. In January 1985 he performed with the young violist Yuri Bashmet in the Hungarian State Opera House, with a programme of Haydn, Hindemith and Debussy on the first evening, and Hindemith, Britten and Shostakovich on the second. On Easter Sunday 1985 he once more travelled through Hungary, and in an invitation-only concert one afternoon played exclusively Hindemith. In early summer 1986 he stopped to give two concerts in Győr.

CD 12

Excerpts from the concerts in the Pest Vigadó Hall, 1982 and the Opera House, 1985

In the darkened hall of the Pest Vigadó the pianist’s music was illuminated by one single standard lamp. Richter selected some less popular and showy pieces from Franz Liszt’s Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (1847–52), and he was engrossed in the performance of this meditative music. This disc features the contemplative suffering of the Andante lagrimoso (no. 9). In Richter’s organically structured performance, César Franck’s large-scale tripartite composition, the Prélude, Chorale and Fugue (1884) took on a discursive style, with organ-like sonorities. After the sonata by Karol Szymanowski, he played four Mazurkas from Szymanowski’s op. 50 series, pieces with a peculiar modal flavour and conceived in the harmonic world of the twentieth century, whose melancholy mood, contemplative nature and passionate rhythms perfectly suited the atmosphere of the concert.

On 14 January 1985, in the second half of his joint concert with Yuri Bashmet in the Hungarian State Opera House he played ten pieces from Book I of Claude Debussy’s Préludes. Omitting La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) and Minstrels, he forged the series into a tripartite cycle with his own individual dramaturgy. The five preludes of the first part – Danseuses de Delphes, Voiles, Le Vent dans le plaine, Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir, Les collines d’Anacapri – was a basically pastel formulation of colours, shadows and scents, yet with great internal variety. The second – Des pas sur la neige, and Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest – was a sombre, stark, shockingly concise image of a winter landscape and a turbulent seascape, and the third – La sérénade interrompue, La Cathédrale engloutie, and La Danse de Puck – was the poetry of the real world, with concrete sonorities, a rigorous structure and pregnant rhythm.

CD 13

The 1983 Tchaikovsky–Rachmaninov Recital at the Academy of Music

In this concert Richter presented the Hungarian public with two segments of the peculiar Russian world, very different one from the other, though nurtured by the same roots. With piano works by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (four pieces from the series The Seasons op. 71/b, 1875–76, the F major Nocturne op. 10/1, 1871, the A major Valse-scherzo op. 7, 1870, the E minor Humoresque op. 10/2, 1871, the B-flat major Capriccioso op. 19/5, 1873, the A-flat major Valse op. 40/8, 1876–78, the F minor Romance op. 5, 1882), he conjured up the atmosphere of the salons in the country houses of the nineteenth-century Russian nobility – now intimate and refined, now clod-hopping, simultaneously smiling and tearful – and its rarely-seen tragedies. Tchaikovsky’s little genre pieces were played in a fine, simple, expressive performance, in which Richter gave them the same attention and absorption as the greatest music.

The eight works chosen from Sergei Rachmaninov’s two series of Études-Tableaux (op. 33/9, 5, 6, 1911 and op. 39/1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 1916–17) show the visionary, tragic world of the early twentieth century, with pieces predominantly in the minor, chiming funereal music, triumphant fanfares, shrill orchestral and organ-like sonorities, which sounded with captivating virtuosity in Richter’s hands, triggering a spontaneous applause after almost every work.

In the early 1990s Richter visited Budapest twice more: in June 1991 he gave a solo recital of Bach and Mozart in the Academy of Music and played two Bach concerti with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra. In autumn 1993 he stopped for one single concert, and this was the last time the Hungarian audiences were able to hear him.

CD 14

The Last Concert in Budapest

On 9 November 1993 the 78-year-old pianist gave a concert in Budapest’s new concert hall, the Budapest Congress Centre, with a capacity of fifteen hundred, in which the intimacy of the musicianship surpassed the atmosphere of the 1983 Tchaikovsky–Rachmaninov recital. Richter made a personal selection from the 68 compositions in the seventeen volumes of Liriske stykker (Lyric Pieces) by Edvard Grieg, whose 150th anniversary was that year.

This time the selection kept to the composer’s chronological order, and the 22 pieces played in the concert showed in their continuity and their diversity the highly original voice of the ‘musical diary’ kept by the Norwegian composer for 34 years: Arietta, Waltz, Watchman’s song, Elves’ Dance (op. 12, 1867), Spring Dance, Canon (op. 38, 1883), Butterfly, To the Spring (op. 43, 1884), Valse-impromptu (op. 47, 1888), Norwegian March, Scherzo, Bell Ringing (op. 54, 1891), Secret, She Dances, Homesickness (op. 57, 1893), Phantom (op. 62, 1895), Wedding Day in Troldhaugen (op. 65, 1896), Evening in the Mountains (op. 68, 1898), Puck, Peace in the Woods, Gone, Remembrances (op. 71, 1901). There were character pieces, genre pictures, programmatic miniatures, impressionistic tone poems, dances and spirited folklore works – played simply and expressively, markedly accentuated even in their reticence, and with the marvellous richness of colour of Richter’s touch. The whole evening was spent in a spirit of philosophical musing almost independent of the instrument, in which nostalgia and sadness were more present than cheeriness; the profound message of a great elderly artist through miniature masterpieces.

Márta Papp
Translated by Richard Robinson