He is often depicted as a disciple of Heinrich Neuhaus, the father of the Russian school of piano, but it is the image of him as a rebel that has remained bound to the name Sviatoslav Richter (the essence of which was captured in the magnificent documentary by Bruno Monsaingeon).
Largely self-taught, although his German-born father who was an organist and pianist did provide basic supervision, Richter soon tried to break out of the Stalinist constraints of the Soviet education system. He was one of the last, great, Russian artists of his generation that was allowed to perform abroad. Emil Gilels, also a student of Neuhaus, is said to have stated to journalists during his triumph in the United States: “Just wait until you hear Richter!”
He made his first performance in the West in Helsinki in 1960. Six years later he appeared at the Septembre musical Festival in Montreux performing a concerto that was not part of his “favorite” repertoire: the Grieg piano concerto. But his performance was on par with his usual standard: overwhelming.
CD set: Digital only