Episode 117: The Great Chopinists: Sviatoslav Richter

Prelude in F Major, Op. 28, No. 23; Prelude in D minor, Op. 28, No. 24

rc-richter-200“It was only an amateur concert at the hall of Odessa Engineers' Club with 300 - 400 audience seats. An all-Chopin program. I do not remember if it was a success but I cannot forget the beauty of white roses presented to me then. The petals were as thick as velvet and were voluminous.”

He didn’t remember the performance, but couldn’t forget the flowers. And so began the career of the enigmatic Chopinist, Sviatoslav Richter.

Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter was 19 years old when he gave that first recital – three years BEFORE he began his formal studies. To no less a figure than Glenn Gould, Sviatoslav Richter was “one of the most powerful communicators the world of music has produced in our time.” He was also one of the most puzzling. A documentary on his life is titled “Richter the Enigma.” He was twice expelled from the Moscow Conservatory for skipping the school’s political classes….yet he was awarded the Stalin Prize. Richter never married, but singer Irina Dorliak was his companion for more than 50 years. He loved to play, but hated to book in advance. Richter was an intimate of Prokofiev, and a champion of Schubert. But when asked, Sviatoslav Richter always said his three favorite composers were Richard Wagner, Claude Debussy, and Fryderyk Chopin. Richter called Wagner “the incarnation of all the arts unified - music, painting, literature, drama – and I like him all the more because he never composed a piano work.”

As for Fryederyk Chopin: “He was the poet of sound and was the greatest composer of piano music.”

Like Chopin, Richter was also called “the poet of the piano,” a once-in-a-century fusion of blazing technique and formidable intelligence. Some called him “the ideal Pianist” but Richter didn’t agree: “A performer should be a mirror of a composer” Richter once said. “Therefore there may be only one Beethoven player, who cannot be a Chopin player at the same time. A performer is not allowed to stand out. I am also a failure as a pianist since I am easily identified as Richter while performing.”

Sviatoslav Richter – a standout - and identifyingly GREAT - Chopinist. - Jennifer Foster


Radio Chopin Episode 117: The Great Chopinists: Sviatoslav Richter

Prelude in F Major, Op. 28, No. 23

Prelude in D minor, Op. 28, No. 24