Piano Street Magazine

New Book: “Sviatoslav Richter – Pianist” will be released on April 13

March 26th, 2010 in Piano News by | 1 comment

Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) is widely recognized as one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. In this translation of the first full-scale biography of Richter, Danish composer Karl Aage Rasmussen combines his artistic appreciation of Richter’s career with a sympathetic telling of the pianist’s life based on family archives and interviews with people who worked and lived with him.
Richter enjoyed early success in the Soviet Union, winning the Stalin Prize in 1949. He traveled and performed throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, and earned notice in the West via his recordings. In 1960 he toured in the West to great acclaim, including a run of successful performances at Carnegie Hall. He would remain an active performer throughout his life.
Richter was an intensely private and withdrawn individual who disliked the glare and trappings of celebrity, even preferring to play small halls where the audience could concentrate on the details of his performance. The book also details his chronic depression and homosexuality, and the impact that this may have had in curbing his political activities. Rasmussen celebrates one of the giants of twentieth-century music while painting a realistic portrait of the often troubled double life that many Soviet citizens, especially public artists, were forced to lead.

The book is so well-written, exciting, and captivating, it can almost be read as a novel; it is also thoroughly well-documented and characterized by the author’s enormous professional knowledge. It is impressive that a Danish writer with no particular knowledge of the Russian language has been able to include so many essential details; one would be hard-pressed to imagine anything lacking on this account.

Publisher: Northeastern (April 13, 2010)
Pre-order the book at Amazon.com

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  • Alan Barber says:

    It’s interesting that in his book, “The Art of Piano Playing,” the great Russian pedagogue Heinrich Neuhaus repeatedly cites Richter as being the greatest of his students, and possibly the greatest pianist of the 20th century. What appealed to Neuhaus more than anything else, at least as I read his book, was Richter’s phenomenal sense of architecture; how to reveal the complex structure in a piece of music and communicate it to the listener in a way that no other pianist could. Neuhaus writes: “I so much admire the rhythm of Richter’s performances; one feels clearly that the whole work, even if it is of gigantic proportions, lies before him like an immense landscape, revealed to the eye at a single glance and in all its details from the eagle’s flight, from a tremendous height and at an incredible speed. I ought to say once and for all that such unity, such structure, such a wide musical and artistic horizon as his I have never encountered in any of the pianists I have known, and I have heard all the great ones: Hofmann, Busoni, Godowsky, Carreno, Rosenthal, d’Albert, Sauer, Essipova, Sapelnikov, Medtner, and a lot of others.” To be fair, Neuhaus admits he never heard either Rachmaninoff or Scriabin!
    Still, that’s pretty heady praise!

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