Sviatoslav Richter

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Excerpt from the book included in "Franz Schubert, late piano sonatas" EAS29300 released by eaSonus. Chapter: About  Sviatoslav Richter. In memoriam 1915 - 1997

Why I don’t play without reading from the score

I came late to the decision to play with the music in front of me in concert, although I had suspected for a long time that it was necessary. Paradoxically, in the days when the repertoire was less complex and varied, musicians used to play with the music in front of them. But the custom was discontinued by Liszt. Nowadays your mind is overwhelmed by so many pointless things that you risk being exhausted by it all, instead of allowing only the music to fill you. 

I find this very childish and vain; this sort of prowess is no more than a futile strain on the memory, when really all we need is to create beautiful music and touch the hearts of our audience. It’s no more than a meaningless routine performed to bask in false glory, and which my dear Professor Heinrich Neuhaus so despised. 

Such an incessant adherence to the specifics of the score would allow less ‘freedom’, less ‘individuality’, for the performer, which only infect the music and thus torture the audience, and which shows only a lack of humility and of respect for the music itself. 

Of course it’s not easy to play with absolute freedom when you have the score in front of you. You need time, to work on the piece and to form new habits. That’s why it’s best to begin as early as possible. 

I’d like to offer that advice to the young generation of pianists: they should adopt this healthy and natural method which will allow them to create a richer and more varied musical life of their own, instead of getting bored with the same repeated programmes.

Why I play with low lighting

Not for any particular preference, nor for any mysterious reason – good or bad – that the public may imagine. It’s actually for the benefit of the audience.  

Today’s world is a visual one, and nothing could be worse for music. The movement of the fingers, the facial expressions (which show the exertion of the performer and do not reflect the music itself, and so do not help the audience to feel the music), looking around the hall and at the audience only disturb their concentration, distract their imagination, and come between them and the music. The music should reach them purely and directly.

With my best wishes and in the hope that darkness inspires awareness in place of somnolence! 


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