For fans of Sviatoslav Richter, it does not much matter if the sound is not all that great and it does not much matter if the repertoire is the same repertoire as always. It does not even matter much if the performances are not the greatest Richter ever recorded. For fans of Sviatoslav Richter, the only thing that matters is that there are new Richter recordings because that all by itself means that they will be some of the greatest performances of the greatest repertoire ever recorded. And this five-disc set of Sonatas by Beethoven, Schubert, and Liszt does not disappoint. With recordings dates from 1961 through 1975 and recording venues all in the USSR and its empire, the sound is hard and harsh. But with repertoire ranging from the last three Beethoven Sonatas through Schubert's last Sonata to Liszt's only Sonata, the music has the supreme masterpieces of the Romantic repertoire. And while there are Richter performances here and there that may arguably exceed these, Richter's performances here are as virtuosic, as expressive, as profound, and as transcendent as any he ever recorded. Which makes them some of the greatest performances of the greatest repertoire ever recorded.
Beethoven – The Late Sonatas Opp. 101 & 106 marks the completion of Maurizio Pollini’s survey of the five late piano sonatas. His landmark 1970s recordings of these works were recognised at the time with a Gramophone Award. A few years ago the pianist decided to revisit the five sonatas, and in 2019 made an acclaimed second recording of the final three at the Herkulessaal in Munich. Now he has returned to the same hall to record Opp. 101 and 106 – among the most technically challenging and musical adventurous works in the concert repertoire. Deutsche Grammophon will release his new album on 2 December 2022.
These works share the common key of E flat major but represent two very different stages in the composer’s life. The Piano Concerto No. 0, WoO 4, written when Beethoven was 13 years old, is one of his earliest works. With the orchestral score lost, this extant version for piano solo written in Beethoven’s hand includes the tutti sections reduced for piano. The radiant ‘Emperor’ Concerto shows the 38-year-old Beethoven at the peak of his creative powers, and remains a glorious example of his spirit triumphing over life’s adversities.