Firma Melodiya continues the series of compact discs dedicated to December Evenings Festival that takes place at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. This album, like the previous one, is dedicated to the 1985 festival World of Romanticism and includes recordings featuring Sviatoslav Richter. The atmosphere of December Evenings, an event initiated by the great pianist, differed from usual philharmonic concerts. The spirit of music as an inseparable part of "fusion of arts" the romanticists dreamt of was invisibly felt in each number; a sensitive listener can catch it in these, perhaps technically imperfect, concert recordings from thirty years ago. The works by Schubert, Schumann and Chopin were performed by Sviatoslav Richter in ensemble with his outstanding contemporaries, violinist and David Oistrakh's student Oleg Kogan who passed away prematurely, violist Yuri Bashmet, cellist Natalia Gutman and clarinettist Anatoly Kamyshov.
Turning 90 in December 2013, Menahem Pressler was the pianist of the legendary Beaux Arts Trio for almost 55 years, and continues to enjoy a blossoming career as soloist and recitalist, while remaining as committed to teaching as ever. For the greater part of his life, Pressler has lived with the two great sonatas recorded here, and has recounted how he studied Beethoven’s Sonata in A flat major, Op.110 as a young man after having fled Nazi Germany for Israel in 1939: ‘I didn't really understand many of the things that I understand now. I only understood the enormous emotional… tearing, tearing on my insides…’
It was an eminently sensible decision to couple Zimerman's previously separate Chopin concertos on a single CD. The Ax/Ormandy/RCA disc is the only rival as a coupling, so let me say at once that in different moods I would be equally happy with either. The main difference, I think, is the actual sound. From DG we get a closer, riper sonority, with Zimerman's piano much more forwardly placed. Both orchestra and piano are more distanced on the RCA recording, especially Ax's piano. This, together with Ax's lighter, more translucent semiquaver figuration (and sometimes his greater willingness to stand back and merely accompany—as in certain episodes in the F minor Concerto's finale) often conjures up visions of Chopin himself at the keyboard, and we know he was often criticized for insufficiently strong projection.
…Although little known in the West, never having toured or recorded there, Sofronitsky was held in the highest regard in his native land. Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels looked up to Sofronitsky as their master, and famously, when Sofronitsky once drunkenly proclaimed that Richter was a genius, in return Richter toasted him and proclaimed him a god. Upon hearing of Sofronitsky's death, Gilels was reputed to have said that "the greatest pianist in the world has died."…