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Richter the Enigma

“I never played scales. No exercises either. Never. I began with Chopin’s first Nocture and then, the E minor Etude.

I’ve been watching a documentary about Sviatoslov Richter. He is a confusing character. He always went his own way and his way often only made sense to himself.

He hated school and entered the conservatory without a basic education. While at conservatory he was supposed to take all subjects but didn’t and was expelled twice.

He said he had three teachers: his father, Neuhaus, and Wagner.

His father was a pianist and music instructor. Heinrich Neuhaus was Richter’s piano teacher at the conservatory and Wagner was Wagner.

I get the first two but why Wagner? He never explained how Wagner was one of his teachers but Wagner’s music appealed to him early on. As a teenager Richter would play Tannhäuser and Lohengrin on the piano for his own enjoyment.

As a student he played all five hours of Tristan for a group of his peers. When he finished one of the students demanded that they all bow on their knees to Richter. When Richter refused, the student begged Richter to at least spit on him.

Richter started his concerts by sitting in silence and counting to 30. He did this just to make the audience squirm and wonder what was happening.

Richter did not enjoy playing concerts in the United States but would go on tour in Siberia and play for small villages that had never heard ANY classical music—ever. He thought the expectations of audiences in the U.S. were too high.

Richter was born and died a pianist. He could have been a conductor but he didn’t want it. The one piece he conducted was by Prokofiev. Prokofiev was at the concert. After the concert Prokofiev told Richter that he wanted Richter to conduct all of his music.

It never happened. Richter said he hated analysis and power and that a conductor can’t avoid either.

I think Richter was a pure musician on an emotional level. He grew into this world pre-wired for the piano and therefore skipped the technical development period.

Who starts to learn the piano with Chopin? Who? Richter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBFphuxUlQA

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“I never played scales. No exercises either. Never. I began with Chopin’s first Nocture and then, the E minor Etude.

I’ve been watching a documentary about Sviatoslov Richter. He is a confusing character. He always went his own way and his way often only made sense to himself.

He hated school and entered the conservatory without a basic education. While at conservatory he was supposed to take all subjects but didn’t and was expelled twice.

He said he had three teachers: his father, Neuhaus, and Wagner.

His father was a pianist and music instructor. Heinrich Neuhaus was Richter’s piano teacher at the conservatory and Wagner was Wagner.

I get the first two but why Wagner? He never explained how Wagner was one of his teachers but Wagner’s music appealed to him early on. As a teenager Richter would play Tannhäuser and Lohengrin on the piano for his own enjoyment.

As a student he played all five hours of Tristan for a group of his peers. When he finished one of the students demanded that they all bow on their knees to Richter. When Richter refused, the student begged Richter to at least spit on him.

Richter started his concerts by sitting in silence and counting to 30. He did this just to make the audience squirm and wonder what was happening.

Richter did not enjoy playing concerts in the United States but would go on tour in Siberia and play for small villages that had never heard ANY classical music—ever. He thought the expectations of audiences in the U.S. were too high.

Richter was born and died a pianist. He could have been a conductor but he didn’t want it. The one piece he conducted was by Prokofiev. Prokofiev was at the concert. After the concert Prokofiev told Richter that he wanted Richter to conduct all of his music.

It never happened. Richter said he hated analysis and power and that a conductor can’t avoid either.

I think Richter was a pure musician on an emotional level. He grew into this world pre-wired for the piano and therefore skipped the technical development period.

Who starts to learn the piano with Chopin? Who? Richter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBFphuxUlQA

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I saw this documentary at the Museum of Art 15 years ago or so. Bizarre dude... but a pure artist.

April 23, 2012
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