“Sviatoslav Richter at the Piano”
Documentary Translation by Zsolt Bognár, prepared in 1998

I have prepared the only English translation for the Russian film, the first segment of which appears here:

(Links to the rest of the segments follow.)

’20 Dreamlife Company Logo. Fade to black screen. “Sviatoslav
Richter” in Japanese characters. Front shot of Richter playing
Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 944, at home around 1967.
“Sviatoslav Richter” in Russian lettering. Fade back to head shot of
Richter continuing Bach. Japanese insert: “Produced in Russia in 1968.”
Return to Richter playing Bach, side view. Title screen showing the
piece being played “Bach Fantasia and Fugue in a minor, BWV 944.”
Resume side shot of Richter.

3’00 Clip of Richter with two friends looking through scrapbooks and
memorabilia on Richter’s piano around 1963. Continue Bach in background.
Closeup of scrapbook showing Richter pointing to one of his programs at
Monte Carlo; Baltimore, Maryland; Carnegie Hall. His friend points
out a program at the California Masonic Auditorium; a magazine feature
“Sviatoslav Richter, the Incomparable Soviet Pianist” Narrator: “This
is a diary in which Richter has kept record of his entire musical journey
and performances.” Closeup of list of all concerts.

3’40 Shot out of window of car in which Richter is travelling. View
across a river in Moscow as the car crosses a bridge. View of Richter
in front seat. Many large flowers behind him. Fade to black.

3’46 Shot of smiling audience applauding Richter around 1964. View
pans around audience to show its approval of Richter. Richter shown on
stage. He reaches to kiss the hand of a woman who has given him
flowers. Smiling Richter bows. Narrator: “Richter– As far as his
performances are concerned, all the newspapers around the world report of
his creation of an epoch of musical artistry. He is an artist so
miraculous that no words can be used to describe him. Margueret Long
recalls that he put his soul into his playing; he is a poet of the
piano. He is one of the few artists to receive from Breshnyev the
coveted Lenin Prize, the highest honor.” Views of the applauding
audience. Richter receives flowers from stage which is already
covered in flowers. He places some on the piano bench then nods and
bows. The orchestra in the background and Rudolf Barshai applaud
Richter. Large angle shot of Richter standing and bowing on stage
to a packed Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on a different
occasion. Many people parade down the aisle with huge bunches of flowers
for Richter. Various shots of Richter bowing. The smiling
audience of yet a different hall. Richter receives an award around
1963 in a public ceremony, then receives an award from Breshnyev.

5’03 Side shot of Richter’s hands poised at the keyboard “ready to
pounce” with audience visible in the background. Shot of eager
audience in silence. Return to Richter’s hands. Slava begins the
Rachmaninov Etude op.39#4. Narrator: “Rachmaninov Etude-Tableau
op.39#4 in F-sharp minor.” Audience is shown. Richter finishes the piece.

7’35 A street in Moscow near Richter’s apartment. Narrator:
“Richter’s home in Moscow. Let’s go in and have a look.”
Various shots of the interior of Richter’s home, including the Steinway,
the portrait of Neuhaus, an LP (RCA LSC 2611) on the piano, and paintings
on the walls. Subtitles: Liszt Piano concerto number 1, second
movement. (background music)

8’48 View of barren earth near a riverside out in the coutryside.
Richter and some companions walk through beautifully shaded areas.
Narrator:”Richter often went walking in these woods with friends to his
house here. It is of wooden construction, and Richter will fix it up.”
Various shots of the house. The group surveys the area then enters.
Richter watches the view out the window.

10’28 Birds sing in the trees during a snowy winter in Moscow around
1965. Richter is walking down the snowy stairs of a park, with the
Kremlin shown in the distance. Richter continues his walk along a busy
avenue in Moscow. He is handsomely dressed in a longcoat and a fur cap.
Funny old style cars drive by on the road as Richter casually glances at
everything around him.

11’14 Christmastime at the Richter home. Richter lights the candles on

the tree and then smiles.

11’38 A beautiful view of the Moscow Conservatory. Prokofiev’s Cello
Sonata opus 119 plays in the background. Subtitles: “Moscow
Conservatory.” The interior is shown, including the bust of
Tchaikovsky. Narrator:”It is here that the great pianist studied under
Professor Heinrich Neuhaus. Richter’s formal studies didn’t begin until
the age of 22.” Portrait of Neuhaus. Portrait of Richter around 1935.
Portrait of Richter around 1944. Another Neuhaus portrait. A shot of
Richter practicing intensely in the small hall of the Moscow Conservatory
with Neuhaus watching in the background. Narrator:”Neuhaus always said
that Richter was a musician who represented both his country and his
people–in this sense he wasn’t a private student because he was always
in the public eye.” Portrait of Neuhaus. The familiar picture of
Richter and Neuhaus together is shown.

12’54 Kondrashin is shown conducting in his decisive manner in the
Dvorak Piano Concerto in g minor, Moscow, 1963 with the Moscow
Philharmonic Orchestra. Subtitles:”Dvorak Piano Concerto opus 33 in g
minor.” A second excerpt of the concerto begins around the cadenza of
the third movement. Richter finishes the piece, shakes hands with
Kondrashin and the first violinist in front of an audience which is
shouting “bravo!”

16’07 Christmastime in the Richter household. Guests gather around the
tree to chat. A Bach Brandenburg Concerto plays in the background.
Richter plays everyone an LP. Camera zooms on Richter alongside an old
friend. Narrator:”This lady is a painter and longtime friend of Richter,
Anna Troyonovskaya. She first met him in 1942.” Anna is shown in her
house. Anna:”Such was the situation at the time that Richter had no
piano or place to practice, so I offered him, ‘If you find that my piano
is okay, go ahead.'” [In later years this is where Richter would always
practice, instead of in his own apartment.] The piano, a C.Bechstein, is
shown, complete with its cracked pedal. Narrator:”This is the room where
Richter went to practice and this is the piano he used.” Anna:”It was
during the war. Sometimes, together we would get Irish potatoes and put
them on the stove and boil them for a meal. It was so cold that the fire
would sometimes die out, it was so small. In addition, the fire was our
source of light. ”
Anna:”Slava practiced so compulsively that I thought he didn’t know the
meaning of fatigue. This is one painting that I did of him.” A painting
by Anna of Richter at the piano is shown. Anna:”This shows the movement
of his fingers as they flew over the keys. I put a lot of effort into
capturing this moment of Richter at the piano.”

Anna:”One day when he was completely accustomed to my house, he arrived
with a bandaged hand. Immediately he got bored because he couldn’t
play. I recall even now what he said to me at that time. From age 8 or
9, he drew pictures and then there was a time he thought he wanted to be
a painter. He was confused whether to pursue painting or music.” A
portrait of Richter as a painter. “So I tried giving him some pastels
and some drawing paper. It didn’t seem he had much experience with
landscape sceneries.” Anna displays a house/window painting done by
Richter. Anna:”Here is a unique painting that he did here in my house.
It’s wonderful. You could almost see a developing ‘Sviatoslav’ style,
and that was the interesting thing about it.” Anna displays various
Richter paintings. There is a painting of a mountain behind her as she
puts his works on a rack. There is one of Russian buildings by night,
and a Russian church scene. There is a striking painting of buildings in
Moscow. Anna:”A perspective painting:the accent, the space, the method.
In short, as far as painting, I thought the completed technique was
there. Tone, shades, details. The sense was excellent.” A village
street scene is shown, followed by a dance painting. Anna:”This painting
represents his instinct about movement. This sense is essential to a
musician. But as for me, this here is my favorite.” Displays another
painting. Anna:”This was done after he returned from a local recital.
From the window he spotted this winter scene of two trees against the
winter colors and the snow. These are wonderful expressions of memories
of that time.” Another portrait of Richter as a painter. “The
expression of memories is the wonderful power of imagination. I always
think about Slava. He would not have been able to bring out these
elements in his music had he not had the ability to do all this.”

20’28 Richter at the piano in Anna’s home. A gentleman arrives and
joins to listen. The gentleman:”Your performances are always wonderful.
Am I interrupting you?” Richter:”No, generally, I don’t mind that you
watch me. Would it be bad if I played the same melody?” Excerpt of the
slow movement of the C Major Schubert sonata. Excerpt of Chopin’s
variations on Ludovic’s “Je Vends des Scapulaires” opus 12. He plays it
with brilliant sweep, with an out-of-doors freshness. He finishes the
piece. Richter:”Well, that goes terribly.” Starts to play Liszt, then
stops. “But this is good!” Continues, then stops. “Too fast.”
Continues once again. Narrator:”Richter spends five to six hours a day
at the piano.” [He was known to spend much more time practicing than that!]

26’56 A huge hall, the same one where the public ceremony was held
earlier in the video, is shown packed with standing-room people. Richter
plays Mozart’s piano Concerto number 27, on April 23, 1966 with Barshai
conducting the Moscow CO. In the meantime Richter is shown with his wife
Nina visiting an art museum. He surveys several works of art in this
exhibition. Narrator:”Hermitage Museum, Leningrad public exhibition.
Richter’s visit to Hermitage brought back many memories of his childhood.”
The conclusion of the Mozart concerto is shown.

32’02 A glum-looking crowd shown outside of a sold-out Richter
recital. Next, Richter goes sightseeing with many friends in a private
bus. They visit old churches and various landmarks around Russia.

33’17 Richter arrives in Baku by train, and is greeted by many people
and flowers. Next he is shown in concert taking his bows with
photographers wildly snapping photos. As usual, the hall is packed.

33’50 Richter performs Prokofiev’s Sixth Sonata in a staged setting.
Richter is shown autographing programs for fans, receiving flowers in
return. Richter is shown out at sea with the oil drillers. The
Prokofiev Sonata continues in the background. [Richter once said that he
thought the first movement represented industrialization!] Richter
admires these workers. Narrator:”This was the impression that Richter
had when he was on the trip: It is not fame or money that influences the
success or failure of work.” Richter rides in a train and, with Nina,
surveys oil rigs across the Russian landscape.

38’45 Sviatoslav, Nina and a friend sit down for tea and a
conversation. Richter shows his friend the manuscript of Prokofiev’s 9th
Sonata with a photo. Narrator:”The singer Nina Dorliak, and music critic
Yakov Milstein.” Yakov:”Is this Prokofiev?” Slava:”Yes.” Yakov:”I’ve
always wanted to see him.” Slava:”Yes.” Yakov:”Is this handwritten?”
Slava:”That’s right. You see, this picture was taken when Prokofiev was
young and I really like it. It’s a very rare picture.” Yakov:”Did you
play the 9th Sonata for him?” Slava:”No I haven’t played it in front of
him. At the time of my visit it still wasn’t complete. Surely on that
day it was his ‘how many-eth’ birthday. He showed me this composition
and said the following:’This sonata is subdued and the melody is slow.
Surely it is not a virtuoso piece.’ We were in agreement on the matter,
and I subsequently performed this piece as his Sonata #9. He heard my
performance on the radio–he was sick at the time and couldn’t make it to
the concert.” Richter plays the sonata. Narrator:”Prokofiev dedicated
this piece to Richter.” Slava:”I met with Prokofiev formally about seven
times. Of course I met many more times but for music we met 7 or 8
times. That’s all.” Yakov:”What did you play for him?” Slava:”I played
the sonata number seven once when he had just completed it.” Yakov:”You
also played the concerto number five.” Slava:”Yes, that’s right, with
Prokofiev himself conducting. At the time of the sixth sonata, it was
just before the war. It was after he had first heard me play.”
Yakov:”What would have happened had you not been around?” Slava:”It
seemed that he was happy with the success of his work. It seemed he
liked my performance. Of course I’m joking! I played the piece again
two months later in Tchaikovsky Hall. Somehow I felt something very deep
and significant in the piece.” Plays the second movement of sonata
number nine.
Yakov:”Your repertoire is really large. It’s truly remarkable.”
Slava:”The fewer the better–isn’t that right?” Plenty of laughter.
Yakov:”No, that’s not true! Is it because you believe in all of these
pieces?” Slava:”Yes, I do. Believing is essential to my performance.
That’s most important.” Yakov:”How so? What it means is your power to
digest.” Slava:”No, I’m in no mood to play what’s bad. All the same,
the pieces that I do like to play, I like to perform. How would I
perform it…” Yakov:”But you like to play many pieces.” Slava:”Yes,
there are many pieces that interest me. Is it greediness, do you
think?” Yakov:”No such thing!” Slava:”There are people who like the
piece, there are those who say ‘this is good, this is bad’…in
everything there’s something good.” Yakov:”Yes.” Slava:”In saying this
I don’t mean that the entire work is good necessarily…the problem is
not the school or the style…the most important thing is the work as a
whole. The most talented person is involved. In the arts what is
important above all is how one *empoys* the talent; participation is
everything.” Richter plays Debussy Prelude number 6 and pulverizes the
L’Isle Joyeuse in a hair-raising rendition in concert. Yakov:”What is
your most recent performance trend? Is it the classical or modern
style? You play few pieces from the mid-romantic period. Will you tell
me about this?” Slava:”I’ve played a few pieces from the romantic
period…I’ve gotten tired of it. My performances of these works are not
outstanding. They are to be played from the point of view of emotional
expression. I find it especially difficult to perform these works. In
performing modern and classical pieces, the intellect is the most
important element. But in romantic style, the physical and powerful
aspects are important. The great majority of the people unnessecarily
think that it is *only* because of this that the piece is difficult. For
me in this sense, it is impossible to perform these pieces. So, the
young people are misled, and what *is* actually the difficult part gets
ignored and is seen as unnessecary. The public demand is an intensity
which surpasses this. Also, the public is always the right judge.”
Yakov:”That’s right.” Slava:”From one point of view, the public is
always correct.” Richter plays the Chopin etudes number 4 and 10 from
opus 10.

Slava:”This year I performed 130 times.” Yakov:”130 times?!”
Slava:”Yes, 130. Last year 125 times. Next year it will probably be 150
times!” Yakov:”150 times?!?” Much laughter. Slava:”Oh, that’s a joke!
Maybe only 50 times next year, actually.” Yakov:”It seems that every
year you focus on one composer.” Slava:”Not true.” Yakov:”Last year you
played a lot of Mozart. Do you like to play new music?” Slava:”I don’t
generally play new music. I belong to the conservative school. That’s
right, every year there seems to be a characteristic. There’s a Mozart
year, a Beethoven year, and a Bach year. That’s right, a Bach year. Is
that okay?” Yakov:”So you have the best impression of which new
pieces?” Slava:”Recently? The strongest impression was at the English
festival at Aldebourgh. It was the second festival, and it was called
The Secrets of Coryuber [sp.?], and it was a new piece. Already it is no
longer the newest piece, but of course it was very original. It was
truly wonderful and moving. In our country it wasn’t well known. I also
got a strong impression of Janacek, especially of his Slav “Misa” piece,
about ten years ago.” Yakov:”Where?” Slava:”I heard it on record. I
heard it only once more in Prague. It was really wonderful. Of strong
performances, I had good impressions of Cherubini’s “Medea”. I will
never forget that performance at La Scala, with Maria Callas singing. It
was a totally stunning performance, such that I can even see it before my
eyes now. That was how she was. Not only as a singer but as an actress;
she was a great artist also as a repertory of drama. It formed a
harmonious whole. She hypnotized her whole audience from start to
finish. In Salzburg I saw many interesting things. I saw Karajan
conduct Il Trovatore. I don’t especially like that opera, but at that
time I was completely taken by the performance. Of course that was
because Karajan was conducting. Also, as a whole, the singers made it a
truly unforgettable experience.” Yakov:”Recently, Karajan both directs
and conducts operas.” Slava:”My memory of that time still hasn’t been
erased. At a recent performance, I saw a Chopin concerto, and also
Mahler’s seventh Symphony. It wasn’t a symphony that I liked, but it was
one of those pieces that gave me a strong *impression.* That music is
already….wonderful. That was the greatness of Svetlanov. It was a
fantastic performance. So what I mean by this all is that when there is
a truly great artist, you don’t *discuss* his or her talent. Music is
not something to *talk* about. There are no *words* for it. There is no
need. Music is for listening to and performing. It is in this way that
it makes its strongest statement.” Richter concludes by performing the
Chopin Revolutionary Etude. Roll Credits.

© Copyright 2017 Zsolt Bognar