Sviatoslav Richter (piano)ICA Classics ICAC 5084 ****
Sviatoslav Richter’s June 1975 recital at London’s Royal Festival Hall presented Beethoven early and late – the Sonatas in C, Op 2 No 3, and the Hammerklavier, with three Bagatelles from the even later Op 126 as a bridge between them. The playing is mighty, as uncompromising as the music itself, which reflects a visionary Beethoven at his most self-consciouslly virtuosic, and also, in the slow movement of the Hammerklavier, at his most profound.
As much as anything that’s on disc, these performances show why Richter has long been regarded with such awe by his fellow pianists – he followed the Hammerklavier with an encore of the finale (not included here). The recorded sound is not top notch, and there’s some distortion that’s intrusive in the early sonata.