The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter was born 100 years ago yesterday. Here is a short but comprehensive memoir and appreciation with a lot of biographical information and a good critical appraisal of his playing.

March 21, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday — Friday, March 20, 2015 – brought us the first day of spring.

It also marked the centennial of the birth of the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter (below).

Sviatoslav Richter

Richter was such a complex and towering figure that it would take a book to really do justice to him and to his career.

But the following essay by Steve Wigler for the outstanding Deceptive Cadence blog on NPR (National Public Radio) does an excellent job for a short-form piece of criticism.

With one exception that gets no mention.

We now know beyond question that Richter (below) was a gay man who was forced by the Soviet government into a marriage of convenience and camouflage.

Somehow that information seems particularly pertinent to The Ear, given the growing acceptance of LGBT people and of marriage equality.


Still, Wigler’s essay is an excellent read and includes a YouTube video – there are many, many YouTube videos of Richter, who had an immense repertoire, playing. This video is of a live performance by Richter in which he plays the last movement of the first piano sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.

You can hear the power and energy, the subtleties and excitement, to say nothing of the originality of interpretation, that Richter brought to music.


Enjoy it -– and tell us if you ever heard Richter live and what is your favorite performance by Sviatoslav Richter with a link to a YouTube video is possible.


Classical music news: University of Wisconsin pianist Christopher Taylor sends a letter and photos from his concert tour to Perm, Russia.

May 23, 2012
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ALERT: This Thursday night at 7 p.m. in The Playhouse of the Overture Center, the Rhapsodie String Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson), which is made up of members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will perform a FREE concert of Haydn’s “Emperor” String Quartet in C major, Op. 76, No. 3, and Brahms’ String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51. No admission will be charged, but freewill donations are welcome at the door.

By Jacob Stockinger

Remembers those Letters from Paris or Berlin in The New Yorker magazine that begin “A friend writes …”? I have always loved them and think Janet Flanner and Adam Gopnik, who served as Paris correspondents, were especially  terrific and worthy of that city.

Anyway, The Ear just received something similar from the acclaimed pianist Christopher Taylor (below), who teaches at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Taylor recently left on a week-long concert tour to Perm, Russia, which is some 4,900 miles away from Madison. Here is a link to the posting that announced that and other news about Taylor.

In Perm, Taylor’s path has crossed those of such historical figures as Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the famed Ballets Russes, which premiered Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and other works; and the Nobel Prize-winning poet and novelist Boris Pasternak.

Here is his e-mail Letter from Perm:

“Zdravstye, Jake,

“I’m having a good time here.

“Night before last was my recital featuring Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards” (“sur l’enfant Jesus”), which went over well. Last night I shared a program with the Russian pianists Ivan Sokolov and Anton Batagov, playing little snippets of Bach, Schumann, Messiaen and Ligeti.

“Tomorrow is the final obligation, Stravinsky’s “Les Noces” (The Wedding) and a new work by contemporary Russian composer Vladimir Nikolaev, scored for the same forces as “Les Noces” (4 pianos, percussion, vocal soloists and chorus). Rehearsals begin in a couple of hours.  Should be an adventure.

“Enclosed are a couple of inexpert photos.

“No. 1 shows the hall where the Messiaen occurred and the Stravinsky/Nikolaev program will take place. The picture on the central banner is (violinist Vladimir) Spivakov, who will be guest conducting here in June.  The black banners left and right are for the Diaghilev festival in which I’m taking part.  The first of the four names in the banner on the right is me.

“No. 2 shows that Perm is a bustling modern city, complete with MacDonald’s.

“No. 3 is the house where Diaghilev grew up, where last night’s joint recital occurred.

“And No. 4 is the pleasant central park with its Pasternak memorial (Pasternak spent time here and based much of “Doctor Zhivago” on this city).

“So, gotta run.  Hope to see you before long!



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