Lost recording: Richter plays opus 110

Lost recording: Richter plays opus 110


norman lebrecht

March 05, 2021

A live performance from 1951 – inimitable.



  • Greg Bottini says:

    Inimitable…. and unsurpassingly beautiful.
    Richter was always great, but he was greatest in his live performances.

  • E says:

    This takes my breath away. Merci, NL!

  • David E says:


  • Larry David says:

    An admirable and generally fine performance. Very passionate . 2nd mvt was the only one I think he didn’t quite capture. But why be picky? A great artist! Thank you for sharing it.

  • poyu sung says:

    His Beethoven late sonatas (No.29 onward) are really special stuffs.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The 1st mvt has a serious left hand problem. From the nature of the music it can be concluded that this extremely simple figure has to be played in a very equal way, as a gentle, unobtrusive background to the melody. Almost all pianists put their restless nerves into the left hand, destroying the delicate balance.

    Richter plays the 1st mvt in a restless way. It is beautiful playing but it lacks the intimate and, above anything else, the quiet poetry of the music.

    Most pianists simply don’t get the music. It’s not a matter of talent, but of personal imagination and sensitivity.

    For instance, Pollini does not understand the music at all:


    This is Richard Goode’s rendering, so much better at understanding the music:


    The best rendering is Brendel’s:


    Here is Gould, accompanying his own sung version of the music and adding his explanations:


    • John Borstlap says:

      With all due respect, but the people who put their thumbs down under such good information have no ears, and don’t know the music.

    • Marfisa says:

      I beg to disagree to some extent on “intimate … quiet poetry”. I have come to realize that there is a deeply disturbing undercurrent to the first movement, beautiful and simple as it seems, and the driving left-hand semiquavers are part of that essential tension. But perhaps it is a matter of individual interpretation. Thank you for the other links. (P.S. I gave you a thumbs-up!)

      • John Borstlap says:

        Thank you, and yes I recognized your thumb.

        If Beethoven had wanted to suggest a deeply disturbing undercurrent in the 1st mvt, he would certainly have written a very different left hand figuration. I think you take Richter’s rendering as something embedded in the score, while it is Richter’s own deeply disturbing undercurrent. There are many things that cannot be notated.

        • Marfisa says:

          If he had wanted an entirely peaceful effect he could have written a much smoother LH Alberti bass accompaniment; the repeated chords are more effortful for the pianist, and cannot be played legato. I think the tension, the difficulty, is indeed embedded – the soaring beauty of the RH against the stubborn insistence of the LH, moving relentlessly onto the next beat – and the next modulation. But of course the balance needs to be kept, as I think Richter does. One could discuss Beethoven’s piano sonatas for ever!

          • John Borstlap says:

            This is an entirely legitimate interpretation.

            But the extremely simple left hand figure can be seen as expressing exactly that: extreme simplicity. There are many moments of almost ‘nothing’ a little bit further down the line, where very sparse notes in the discant sound like echos of some far-away bells, and very simple two-voice counterpoint which is very easy to play. Etc. etc.

  • Nelson says:

    How is it that this is a “lost” recording, when it was issued in 2012 by the Moscow Conservatory Label? (https://www.discogs.com/Sviatoslav-Richter-Mozart-Beethoven-Schubert/release/8385652). Not the 1st time Classical Piano Rarities has passed off a recording that they don’t have rights to as a discovery (and stepped around this issue by giving incomplete information as to the provenance). I think you should vet these “discoveries” more carefully. There is copyright held on this by the Moscow Conservatory label.

  • superbe says:

    This,with the Zagreb performance(1986-not on Utube) is very high standard of Richter in this sonata.