Sviatoslav Richter needs no introduction - he is universally regarded as one of the very greatest pianists of the 20th century. The Soviet recordings he made in the 1950s, before he started performing in the west, are generally less well known though, and here we have two major works, from a composer who was particularly close to Richter's heart, which he did not revisit in the recording studio in later years.
Schubert's Sonatas D845 and D850 are certainly amongst his greatest, they immediately predate the magnificent final three (D958-960) and are written on the same vast scale. The composer's piano sonatas were little known in the 1950s, particularly in the USSR, and Richter was very much a torchbearer for this music. These are sublime performances, particularly in the timeless slow movements, and it is surprising how rarely these particular recordings have been reissued in the CD era. Thankfully by the later 1950's the Melodiya recorded sound was much improved and not many apologies need be made on this account.
“[D850 is] a miraculous synthesis of vitality and introspection...D845 emerges with volcanic, almost desperate urgency.”
Awards Issue 2009
“…the Trio of the A minor Sonata's Scherzo… is played with such poise and lucidity that it soars to ultimate heights of poetry. …even in the exultant, less despairing pages of the D major Sonata Richter's adamantine strength and rhythm are paramount. ...you can never be less than awed by such consummate if chilling mastery.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.