The above letter appeared in the September/October issue of International Piano magazine. I felt compelled to respond thus, and my letter appears in the November/December issue:

I cannot let Mr Erauw’s simplistic and frankly disrespectful letter in issue No. 51 concerning Alfred Brendel go unchallenged. Although now retired from the concert stage, Mr Brendel is a highly regarded pianist whose performances and recordings of the core of the classical canon – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt – are considered amongst the finest, and whose thoughtful writing on composers, music and the exigencies of the pianist’s life is intelligent and considered, the result of a lifetime spent with this music. Mr Erauw may not like Brendel’s playing, but that does not warrant such an unpleasant attack on the man, particularly while he is still alive – nor on his protégé Paul Lewis, a respected artist in his own right.

Mr Erauw seems to regard piano playing as some kind of Olympic sport where those who play the most, the widest repertoire, or who triumph in piano competitions are considered the “greats”. Brendel chose to devote himself to a relatively small corner (but by no means “narrow” if one considers the huge variety and complexities of writing by those composers with whom he is most closely associated) of the repertoire because these were the composers to whom he presumably felt the closest affinity. Many other “great” pianists have chosen this route and are renowned for their interpretations of, for example, Bach (Angela Hewitt, Andras Schiff) or Mozart (Mitsuko Uchida, Maria Joao Pires). Some pianists choose to devote a lifetime to performing and recording the works of only a handful of composers, with whom they feel a particular connection or affection, often revisiting works in concert series and recordings, in the knowledge that one never plays the same thing twice, and to offer a fresh perspective as one’s interpretation matures or changes over time. Such a long-standing intimacy gives one deep insights into the music and soundworld of that particular composer or composers, and as such these pianists’ interpretations and performances are often highly prized. Such is the case with Alfred Brendel.

Nowadays children and young artists are encouraged to play everything (and earlier and earlier) in the belief that this is what audiences and concert promoters crave. Personally, I am not convinced that having a huge variety of repertoire in one’s fingers necessarily brings insightful or compelling performances, but rather superficial Olympian displays of pianism and “style over substance”.

Mr Brendel’s life’s work should be celebrated and respected while he’s still with us.

Frances Wilson, October 2018

When I was a child my father had in his LP collection a Schubert album with Richer on Monitor Records. That was one of the very few record labels that was offering artists from the then USSR to the West. During the height of the ‘Cold War’ it was a very esoteric thing to have. I remember the fast movements were so exciting and electrifying. Being a young person, with a young person’s taste, I would ignore all the wonderful slow movements. (PU)

One of my top 5! But he was a very scary man when he was doing our assessments in Moscow. Gilels on the other hand was a pussy cat! I recall his recital in Warsaw……when he arrived late  (weather conditions in Moscow and Warsaw) and went straight on the stage, and after an incredible recital played Prokofieff’s 9th Sonata again, this time as an encore!! What more can one say about that?! (AF)

I have a huge stash of Richter recordings, along with video, and both Monsaingeon’s documentary and the book based on it. I have to say, I don’t always agree with his choices or artistic decisions, but I always learn something new listening to them. I know I’m not alone in that view. There really aren’t many musicians one could say that of,  don’t you think? (JG)


I have always admired Sviatoslav Richter since the time I was a little boy and learned how to pronounce Sviatoslav! (PC)


Richter was the reason I became a musician. My father heard Richter many times in Budapest in his prime in the 1960s. The concerts were without announced programs–he announced the selections from the stage. People thronged to get tickets. My father came back with such stories of Richter’s aura and magnetism: “he had only to walk on stage for the electricity to happen.” These impressions brought me to the piano… (ZB)

He was a risk-taker: there are very few players on the international circuit today who would be prepared to do what Richter did…. He was truly a musical polymath (FW)

…there will never be another pianist like him in my view….a true philosopher of the piano, although even that does not do him full justice… I was lucky enough to see him in live performance almost 25 times and each concert remains indelibly imprinted in my memory. Such a mercurial, ‘bel canto’ touch, such thunderous power combined with the most delicate phrasing and infinite shades of colour. One was always surprised in his concerts and it always felt like one was hearing the piece for the first time…that global, birds-eye view of the work….one felt one was being taken by the hand and led along a path of discovery…it really felt like that…I will take those memories with me to my grave… (LL)

I know he never had a thirst for fame, narcissism……On the contrary, he was constantly dissatisfied with himself, and, sometimes when he come back home after the success of a concert, he could spend all night at the piano, in order to achieve the desired sound. He was a great worker like Mozart, like all geniuses. He was always moving from internal to external, that is his interpretation of music first born inside him, and after this he begin to embody it into performance. I think this is the true path of art 


Thank you to everyone who contributed to these Recollections of Richter posts. Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #Richter100 – and please feel free to add further reminiscences, sound and video clips, photographs and more.

Richter playing his favourite Schubert sonata: