With Britten Benjamin / Aldeburgh Festival Recitals
Mozart: Sonata in D, K.448, for Two Pianos (recorded in recital, 20 June 1967)
Schumann: Bilder aus Osten, Op. 66, for One Piano Four Hands (recorded in recital, 21 June 1966)
Debussy: En blanc et noir, for Two Pianos (recorded in recital, 20 June 1967)
Britten: Introduction and Rondo alia Burlesca, Op. 23 No. 1 for Two Pianos (recorded in recital, 20 June 1967)
========= from the cover ==========
It was on June 20, 1964 that Sviatoslav Richter made his unplanned debut at Aldeburgh. Following performances earlier that month in Warsaw, Dresden, and Paris, Richter had expected to enjoy a brief pause in his concert activity by attending several Aldeburgh events at which his old colleague, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, would be appearing. Upon his arrival, however, Richter was quickly persuaded to join forces not only with Rostropovich but also with Benjamin Britten for a pair of concerts on the same day! The repertoire included the Brahms E Minor and Grieg A Minor Cello Sonatas, two solo Schubert Sonatas and - with Britten as Richter's four-hand partner - the Schubert A-Flat Variations. Thus began, most auspiciously, what would become a total of eleven appearances by Richter at the Aldeburgh Festivals of 1964,1965, 1966, 1967, and 1975.
Richter apparently found the prevailing informal atmosphere to be especially conducive to his style of music - making. He enjoyed playing in the Parish Church and Jubilee Hall, which were two main venues before the 1967 completion of the large Maltings Concert Hall at Snape. The pianist also established a warm friendship and a close musical rapport with Britten, whom he had met in 1961 during the latter's tour of the USSR with Peter Pears. Fortunately, the available four-hand repertoire was dominated by composers for whom both musicians felt a strong affinity; Schubert, Schumann, Mozart, and Debussy. Britten also conducted the English Chamber Orchestra in accompaniments to Richter's performances of the Mozart Concerto, K.595, Schumann's Konzertstiick (Op. 92), and Britten's own concerto (which the same forces recorded commercially for Decca/London in 1970).
The various four-hand and two-piano collaborations of Richter and Britten (preserved via broadcasts of the concerts) represent Richter's most extensive venture into the duet literature. Earlier he had performed on a few occasions with his compatriot Anatoly Veder-nikov (the two pianists recorded the Bach double-keyboard concerto in C in 1957)/ while in 1977 Richter played all-Schubert recitals with Zoltan Kocsis at festivals in Germany and France. More recently he enlisted the services of Vassili Lobanov for two-piano works by Bartok, Stravinsky, and Britten (see Philips 420 157). But on the whole it is the Richter/ Britten partnership which remains the most artistically fascinating.
Benjamin Britten's credentials as a pianist do not require much explanation; he carried his early affinity for the instrument into his accompaniments to Peter Pears in a wide variety of song literature, and he even appeared as soloist and conductor in the Mozart A Major Concerto K.414 at the 1956 Aldeburgh Festival (the performance was briefly available on LP). In addition, Britten lavished his personal insights as a composer on the music of other creative figures whose products he favored (his antipathy to the music of Brahms, however, is a matter of public record!).
The Richter/Britten recitals were destined to last for only four Aldeburgh seasons. After 1967 various scheduling conflicts, cancellations and political complications prevented Richter from playing at the festival until he returned in 1975 for a final pair of solo recitals. The death of Benjamin Britten the following year marked the end of this unique chapter in Richter's long and distinguished career.
Composed in November, 1781 the D Major Sonata is Mozart's only sonata for two pianos (as distinct from his several sonatas for one piano four hands). It was written specifically to be played by Mozart himself and his pupil Josephine von Aurnhammer. As with his only concerto for two pianos (K.365 in E-Flat), the two parts are in perfect equilibrium throughout. Neither in the technical demands nor in the distribution of material does Mozart favor one player over the other.
Robert Schumann composed five works for piano duet; all are collections of relatively short pieces that can be played separately or as a unit. Bilderaus Osten (Pictures from the Orient), Op. 66, consist of six "impromptus" (as Schumann called them) that were apparently inspired by the Arabian tales of Ruckert about Abu Seid (the Arabian counter - part of Tyl Eulenspiegel). Published in 1848, the Bilder do not carry descriptive titles and indeed it is difficult to find anything even faintly "oriental" about them; they are as purely Schumannesque as the large body of solo piano works that preceded them.
1915 was a particularly fruitful year as far as Debussy's piano output is concerned. Not only did he complete his last solo piano effort (the Twelve Etudes), but also En blanc et noir for two pianos. Especially noteworthy is the second of the three pieces, an elegy in memory of a friend killed during World War I (there are clear quotations from the Lutheran chorale Ein' feste Burg). The finale is dedicated to Stravinsky, with whom three years earlier Debussy had read the four-hand version of Le Sacre du printemps.
Together with a companion two-piano work (the Mazurka Elegiaca in memory of Padere-wski), Britten's Introduction and Rondo alia Burlesca, Op. 23, dates from the early part of World War II, when Britten was temporarily stranded in the United States. The piece was completed in November, 1940, and the first recording (several years later) featured the composer in collaboration with Clifford Curzon. It is a significant entry in the small catalog of piano works to come from Britten's pen.