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Re: richter/gould

Gould is precisely right about Richter, and says, eloquently I think, what
it is in Richter's remarkable playing that makes him a musical genius.

John Grant

-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Morrison <jim_morrison@sprynet.com>
To: fmin <f_minor@email.rutgers.edu>
Date: Sunday, February 27, 2000 6:42 PM
Subject: richter/gould

>All the talk on the website concerning Richter this last week inspired me
>check out some Richter's cds from the library and I found the following
>interesting comments concerning Gould made in the notes to _Stanoslav
>Richter Concert Performances and Broadcasts, 1958-1976_ put out by Music &
>Arts, which includes Pictures at an Exhibition from the 1958 Budapest
>concert, Prokofiev's 4th, and Beethoven's 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 32nd.  It's a
>very full four CD set.  The notes, by the way, were written by Kevin
>"...for when he (Richter) plays Beethoven, it is Beethoven he wants you to
>admire, not Richter...in reflecting a piece of music--communicating its
>structure and character fully and clearly--Richter also gets in touch with
>the style it represents.   This aesthetic of performance stands in contrast
>to that of, say, Gould, for whom the performer's role was properly creative
>even to the point of recomposition at times.  Whether he plays Byrd, Bach,
>Beethoven, Brahms or Berg, Gould always sounds like Gould.  But for Richter
>(though we can of course recognize certain consistent traits of his
>style), the aim is for the performer to retreat behind the music, to serve
>it wholeheartedly: in an interpretation is interesting, he insists it is
>what it finds within the work itself...he does what is necessary to let the
>music speak for itself as much as possible...the range of his tonal and
>dynamic palettes, the precision of his phrasing, the whispery lyricism and
>the volcanic climaxes, the large-scale command of rhythmic shape in tempos
>ranging form near-still to frantic, the sheer gymnastic agility--all are
>justly admired.  Yet Richter's goals are still more musical than pianistic:
>he uses the piano to get beyond the piano...Gould understood and
>this aspect of Richter's art.  In an essay on Richter written in 1978
>(though never published) he divided musical performers into two categories,
>'those who seek to exploit the instruments they use, and those who do not.'
>In the first category are the likes of Paganini, Liszt,
>who are determined to make us aware of their relationship to their
>instrument.'  The Second category 'includes musicians who try to bypass the
>whole question of the performing mechanism, to create the illusion, at any
>rate, of a direct link between themselves and a particular musical score
>who, therefore, help the listener to achieve a sense of involvement, not
>with the performance per se, but rather, with the music itself.'  For Gould
>there was no better example of this type of musician than Richter, who
>achieves 'such a perfect liaison with the instrument that the mechanical
>process involved becomes all but invisible--totally at the service of the
>musical structure--and that the performer and consequently the listener is
>then able to ignore all superficial questions of virtuosity or instrumental
>display and concentrate instead on the spiritual quality inherent in the
>music itself.'  Gould went on to record his impressions of Richter's
>notorious interpretation of Schubert's Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, with
>its slow first movement (complete with exposition repeat) clocking in at
>about twenty-five minutes.  (He heard Richter play this piece in Moscow in
>1957; another performance from the 1964 Aldeburgh Festival, is available on
>Music & Arts CD-642.)  No Schubert fan, Gould dreaded Richter's opening
>tempo, yet found himself, after a time, In a kind of 'hypnotic trance,' in
>which the musical architecture, the relationship of details to whole,
>clear, and in which one 'was witnessing a union of two supposedly
>irreconcilable qualities--intense analytical calculation revealed through a
>spontaneity equivalent to improvisation.'
>Interesting, no?  Has anyone ever heard of this unpublished essay on
>Richter?  How do Gould's comments on Richter compare to comments we might
>make of his live Goldbergs?  It sounds like something Bradley has said
>them.  I've never heard Richter's 'notorious' Schubert.  Has anyone out
>there heard the performance and can say whether are not they agree with
>Gould's impression?