Guest post by A Piano Fan
I have no personal reminiscences of getting to hear Richter live or meet him. I don’t even remember how I “got into Richter,” when or where I first heard what, but he’s become my favorite pianist. What stands out to me about Richter’s pianism is the amazing combination of structural control and emotional conviction. From his ability to sustain the narrative of a 25-minute long Schubert sonata movement to his ability to impart so much motion into a flourish that it threatens to fly away – there is always something deeply impressive about his performances. I would say I really learned to appreciate piano performance through listening to him. Even in small details – such as the voicing of secondary lines in chords, as in this moment from Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto: https://youtu.be/uT_ZhhQeudY?t=4m4s , or subtle pedalling in apparently simple music: https://youtu.be/POmD0N9WJ08?t=3m29s
Or in moments of complete apocalyptic piano destruction, as in the coda of his Chopin 4 ballade https://youtu.be/v9Dc2u7P1d4?t=32m35s . I also learned that the piano version of Pictures at an Exhibition is better than any orchestration: https://youtu.be/CitIXrkQfzo?t=26m23s
But what draws me most to his playing is the sense of depth and weight he imparted to so many pieces, as in the mystical adagio of the ‘Hammerklavier’, https://youtu.be/dlwK3IIT6jo?t=53m51s. And the epic amounts of tension approaching a climax – as in the Liszt Sonata (https://youtu.be/2UFnqYT6DyU?t=3m58s now to me it sounds as though every other pianist rushes that passage). I came to appreciate long structures, even in those meditative, super-slow Schubert sonatas movements https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7_OW2__ZR0 I have no idea know how I used to listen to the piano performance, but Richter transformed my ears – and in such a wide variety of repertoire! These are a just few of the reasons why I consider him the greatest pianist of the 20th century.