MUSIC: A Musician First, a Pianist Second

Unearthed recordings by Sviatoslav Richter confirm that he is one of the great artists of the age

Is there a more stimulating, captivating and exasperating pianist than Sviatoslav Richter? When the reclusive Ukrainian-born musician -- the last of the Soviet-era superstars -- is good, he's very, very good. And when he's bad, he's horrid. But in an age of cookie-cutter pianists, each playing the same program in the same way, Richter, at least, is gloriously himself.

Consider Richter: The Authorised Recordings, a 21-CD collection of previously unreleased performances now available from Philips Classics in limited numbers and selling for about $350. The tapes, which cover a span of a quarter-century and include both live and studio recordings, were...

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