Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times writes about the enigmatic life of Sviatoslav Richter as depicted by others (such as Bruno Monsaingeon’s in his documentary) or through Tommasini’s own experiences with Richter’s performances and recordings.
After Stalin’s death in 1953, the Soviet Union lifted a bit of the Iron Curtain to allow some major midcareer Russian artists to make debuts in America. Among them were the violinist David Oistrakh and the pianist Emil Gilels, both in 1955. Notably missing was the towering pianist Sviatoslav Richter, an artist of, in the best sense, demonic powers, whose performances combined stunning technique, myriad colorings and fierce integrity. Every time Gilels was lavished with praise by musicians in America, he would offer thanks, then add, “Wait until you hear Richter!”