Piano virtuoso Sviatoslav Richter? Balalike it!

RBTH recalls the life story of freedom-loving piano virtuoso Sviatoslav Richter


1. Sviatoslav Richter — Frédéric François Chopin. Prelude op. 28 No. 4 in E minor

2. Sviatoslav Richter — S. Prokofiev. Piano Concerto №1, Des-dur, 2 — Andante assai

3. Sviatoslav Richter — Johann Sebastian Bach — Prelude & Fugue

Richter was not just a talented performer and independent creative figure. He performed musical compositions that were banned in the Soviet Union, gave sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall and preferred concerts in small Russian cities to solid touring.

Sviatoslav Richter was born in 1915 in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr to the family of a German composer and Russian noblewoman. His first music teacher was his father. But soon enough the boy decided to make his own way and learned the art of music all by himself.

At 22 Richter had already stirred the public’s attention, and so he decided to get a formal musical education. Richter went to the Moscow Philharmonic. His teacher Heinrich Neuhaus considered him to be a genius.

After WWII this wayward genius gained popularity across the Soviet Union. His concerts also very went down very well in the Eastern Bloc countries, but he was not allowed to visit the West. Yet he enjoyed considerable personal freedom. Ignoring the general censure, Richter played the music of Prokofiev , who was criticized by the Soviet government.

In 1958 Richter became popular in the West. The Soviet authorities simply had to let him go, such was the enormity of his worldwide fame. The pianist held sold-out concerts in Finland, USA, UK, France, Italy and Japan.

Despite being insanely famous, Richter was still very devoted to his personal freedom — he routinely rejected promising invitations in favor of madcap projects. At the age of 70, he went from Moscow to Vladivostok by train, giving concerts in small towns along the way.

At his last concerts Richter sat at the piano almost completely enveloped in darkness, forcing the audience to immerse themselves in the music that the pianist had carried with him throughout his life.

Sviatoslav Richter died on August 1, 1997, in Moscow.

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