Karl Richter’s recordings of Bach’s orchestral and sacred music influenced an entire generation of musicians and listeners, presenting the conductor’s unique sound and style. When Richter recorded Bach’s works, he freed them from a ponderous tradition that had mired the music in romantic sounds and idiom. Richter lightened Bach’s music, and, with an orchestra of outstanding musicians, helped bring it toward the more modern interpretations that listeners have become familiar with today. This is still a bit far from the historically-informed performances that are pretty much the norm, but there is a unity and natural originality that comes through the music in these recordings.
In this first volume of Alexander Scriabin's symphonies on the LSO Live label, Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra begin in media res with the Symphony No. 3, "Le Divin Poème," and the Le Poème de l'extase, which is unofficially counted as the Symphony No. 4. These works date from Scriabin's middle period (ca. 1902-1908), which marks a transition from his youthful Romantic phase to his final visionary works. The Symphony No. 3 reflects a lingering attachment to the symphonic conventions which influenced Scriabin's first two symphonies, particularly in its three-movement structure and relatively clear tonal scheme, though it already hints at the organic development and greater harmonic complexity of the single-movement Le Poème de l'extase, which strains the boundaries of form and key. These effusive works demand a calculated control that may seem at odds with their volatile and languorous expressions, though Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra deliver the music with rhythmic precision and focused tone colors to bring across Scriabin's kaleidoscopic soundworld with brilliance.
From the notes: "This volume includes two major Piano Sonatas by Sergei Prokofiev, a composer Richter knew well. Richter's only performance as conductor was in music of Prokofiev, the premiere of his Sinfonia
concertante for cello and orchestra. And although, as with all composers, Richter played only the music of Prokofiev he felt closest to, there was a great deal of this music, including the First and Fifth Piano Concertos and the Second, Fourth and Sixth through Ninth Piano Sonatas. Prokofiev gave the first perfromane of the Sixth Sonata on a radio broadcast, but Richter gave the public premiere of this Sonata, and also of the Ninth, which was dedicated to him."
From the notes: "The younger Richter was perhaps even more of a virtuoso that the more mature artist. Hearing these early recordings, we may feel that in this decade he was more willing to dazzle audiences with his facility. … Richter's Schumann has long been noted as one of his best composers. In the Humoresque, the only Richter live performance so far published, Richter identifies completely with the unique atmosphere of this stream-of-consciousness music, in which ideas sometimes appear by simply pushing other music aside." Notes by Leslie Gerber [also the Producer]
From the notes: "From his public appearances, he made his mark as a passionately probing musician with a miraculous touch who communicated an unequaled intensity to his listeners. He often presented ignored or forgotten works; he undertook a "Scriabin revival," championed the more neglected works of Schumann, and disclosed unsuspected depths in Schubert, early Beethoven, and Haydn Sonatas. An especially dedicated of Prokofiev, he gave the first concert performance of the Piano Sonata No. 7, and Prokofiev dedicated his Sonata No. 9 to Richter. A Richter recital, whether of familiar or neglected works, always left the listener with a transformed and deepend view of the works heard" Notes by S.W. Bennett
As a composer of orchestral music, Alexander Scriabin is best known for his last two idiosyncratic symphonies, the Poem of Ecstasy and Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, which are essentially symphonic poems, not symphonies in the conventional sense. The Symphony No. 1 (1900) and the Symphony No. 2 (1901), however, are more recognizable as symphonies in their multiple-movement forms, and their durations are comparable to the expansive symphonies of Scriabin's contemporary, Gustav Mahler. They also share the post-Romantic tendency toward Wagnerian harmonies, rhapsodic melodies, and lush orchestration, which, in Scriabin's case, were developed to express heightened emotional states and mystical transcendence. This 2016 double SACD by Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra presents each of the symphonies on its own disc, and the high-quality multichannel sound is ideal for bringing across the subtle nuances of tone color and the shifting of dynamics that are characteristic of his style.]
Often named the supreme pianist of his era, Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) was a poet of the keyboard and an enigmatic, sometimes eccentric figure. These 24 CDs span three centuries of music – repertoire for solo piano and piano duo, chamber music, song and concerto – and bring Richter together with other great artists of his time. As the New York Times wrote, his pianism “combined astonishing technical mastery with bold, wide-ranging musical imagination. His control over the colorings of piano tone was incomparable.”