MOZART: Sonata No. 4, K. 282. Sonata No. 16, K. 545. Sonata No. 8, K. 310. CHOPIN: Études Op. 10 Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 (2 performances), 5, 6, 10, 11, 12 (2 performances). Études Op. 25 Nos. 5, 6, 8 and 11. Études Op. 10 Nos. 4 and 12. RACHMANINOFF: Etude-Tableaux Op. 39 No. 2
Sviatoslav Richter, pianist
MEDICI ARTS DVD VIDEO 3085208 TT: 90 min.

SHOSTAKOVICH: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
Tatiana Nikolayeva, pianist
MEDICI ARTS DVD VIDEO 3085248 TT: 150 min + 14 min.

STRAVINSKY: Three movements from Petrushka. PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28. SCRIABIN: Nocturne for the Left Hand, Op. 9 No. 2. RACHMANINOFF: Prelude in E flat, Op. 23 No. 6. CHOPIN: Largo from Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58. Nocturne Op. Posth in C minor. Etude in C sharp minor, Op. 25 No. 7. BACH: Chromatic Fantasy, BWV 903. Corrente from Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV 830. Jesus, joy of man's desiring. BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83.
Alexis Weissenberg, pianist/ORTF National Orch/Georges Pretre, cond.
MEDIDI ARTS DVD VIDEO 3078048 TT: 150 min.

We are indebted to Medici Arts for their issue of Sviatoslav Richter's recital in London's Barbican Center, a film that almost wasn't made. Richter did not like to be filmed or televised. He didn't discover this was to be filmed until immediately before the concert—and almost cancelled the concert. Finally he permitted it to be filmed but only if no cameras were in sight, and the only light that could be used had to come from a 40 watt bulb from a lamp on the piano. Considering the circumstances, photography is remarkably good, and excessive camera angles, fortunately, are not there. Richter walks quickly to the piano, face expressionless, sits down and begins to play magnificently, He uses scores for the Mozart sonatas, with a page-turner. The demanding Chopin études are dispatched with ease, even the treacherous G# minor of Op. 25. Richter barely acknowledges the tumultuous applause throughout the concert. The considerable "bonus" is inclusion of three works from a BBC telecast of October 28, 1969, Rachmaninoff's Étude-Tableau, Op. 39 No. 3, and Nos. 4 and 12 of the Chopin Op. 10 Études. All of these are stunning, No. 4 a whirlwind of virtuosity (1:34 compared with 2:00 in the Barbican concert). This is a very special DVD capturing one of the greatest pianists of the century in his prime.

Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva was only 25 when she won the Bach Leipzig Piano Competition that was part of the bicentennial marking Bach's death. A prodigious talent, she performed Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue and announced she also would play any one of the master's 48 preludes and fugues, to be determined by the judges. One of them was Dimitri Shostakovich who was greatly impressed by her. They became close friends and he wrote his preludes and fugues for her. She gave the premiere and became famous for her interpretation. She made a number of recordings, in particular music of J. S. Bach, and her third recording of the Shostakovich preludes/fugues has been highly acclaimed. In November 1993, while playing this music during a San Francisco concert, she had a cerebral naemorrhage and died 9 days later. This DVD is an important issue offering this music in magnificent performances, recorded in December 1992 in what appears to be a darkened home setting illuminated by a desk lamp. It is a pleasure to watch her unaffected playing and dedication to music in which she played such an important part. A major plus is a 14-minute documentary apparently recorded at the same time in which this matronly distinguished woman discusses her association with Shostakovich. A major release!

Of considerably less interest is the Alexis Weissenberg DVD. Born in Bulgaria in 1929, Weissenberg studied with Olga Samaroff and had a distinguished career, making his New York debut in 1947 with George Szell and the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3, a work he recorded twenty years later for RCA with the Chicago Symphony directed by Georges Prêtre. After a ten-year sabbatical beginning in 1956, Weissenberg returned to the concert stage, and made many recordings including several with Karajan. This DVD features his famous video of Petrushka made in Stockholm in January 1965. Directed by Ake Falck, it features odd, distracting angles. Weissenberg appeared often on French TV and the solo works listed above were telecast 1966-1969. The Brahms concerto was filmed at Salle Pleyel in Paris August 31, 1969 and does little to enhance the pianist's image. His playing is slack and uninspired, and the orchestral playing is substandard (beginning with a pallid saxophone-sounding horn solo). It's difficult to believe that this performance is by the same pianist and conductor who collaborated on the Rachmaninoff Third in Chicago two years earlier.

R.E.B. (June 2008)