Robert Schumann : Bunte Blätter - Modeste Moussorgski : Tableaux d'une exposition - Claude Debussy : Cloches à travers les feuilles / Sviatoslav Richter, piano (Enr. public 19. 11. 1968, Goldsmiths Hall, Londres)
It's hard to believe that any pianist, living or dead (or, probably, yet-to-be-born) could match, much less surpass, these performances. It was Richter, after all, who made Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition
almost as important an item in the standard repertory of the piano as Ravel's orchestration is in that of the orchestra. And it was Richter's performances of it, as well as his example, that have ignited the interest of subsequent generations of pianists in the Bunte Blätter
, heretofore one of the most obscure works in the Schumann canon.
Indeed, Richter's only competition in these two pieces is himself. These 1968 performances, taped by the BBC, in front of an audience in London's Kingsway Hall, are both better than the pianist's studio recordings of the same pieces. (Richter's studio version of Pictures was recorded in Moscow in 1958 and is available on BMG; his studio version of the Schumann dates from a 1971 session in Salzburg and is available on an Olympia disc.) Wonderful as this BBC performance of the Mussorgsky is, listeners new to Richter should bypass it for another of the pianist's live accounts: the unsurpassable performance from a 1958 recital in Sofia, Bulgaria (Philips). --Stephen Wigler