Sviatoslav Richter

pianist
Born March 20, 1915 in Jytomyr (Ukraine). Died Aug. 1, 1997 in Moscow (Russia).


The special character of Richter was summed up in the title of Bruno Monsaingeon’s documentary film on the pianist, The Enigma. Reserved, yet unflinching in his pursuit of musical excellence, and in later years capable of imposing idiosyncratic conditions for his eagerly anticipated performances, he was already a legend behind the Iron Curtain by the time he made his belated first appearances in the West. Endowed with a consummate technique and devoted to utter fidelity to the musical text, he brought a vivid characterization to each composer he performed, from Haydn, whose piano music he actively promoted, to the grand virtuoso works of Liszt.

  • 1922: Begins to learn piano and composition, largely self-taught.
  • 1930–37: Works as accompanist at the Odessa Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre.
  • 1934: Successful solo recital début playing Chopin.
  • 1937: Moves to Moscow to study with Heinrich Neuhaus at the Conservatoire.
  • 1940: Moscow début with Prokofiev’s Sonata No.6 impresses both audience and composer.
  • 1942: Prokofiev chooses Richter to première his Sonata No.7.
  • 1945: Wins the All-Union Contest of Performers in Moscow.
  • 1950s: Tours in the Communist countries of Eastern Europe; through his recordings, gains a reputation among connoisseurs in the West.
  • 1960: Allowed to travel to the West for the first time: Helsinki; US début five months later causes a sensation; he joins the ranks of the first-class international virtuosos.
  • 1960–89: Tours all over the world, preferring small venues.
  • 1990s: His declining health causes more and more cancelled concerts, while, conversely, he gives other concerts spontaneously.
  • 1995: In Lübeck, Germany, he gives his last concert.
Upper right picture : © Bruno Monsaingeon, The Enigma.