No Prodigal Son, and No Prodigy

Steinway and Sons

In an interview with Johannes Schaaf, a German filmmaker, in the 1970s, which I watched on German television, Richter explained he had benefited from his parents never forcing him to practice the piano, giving him freedom for the gradual unfolding of his talents and interests. This had built in him the doggedness, and self-confidence to endure those first years until he was finally, and very gradually, recognized.

It is important to understand that Richter’s career was fundamentally different from the careers of child prodigies, as for example Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Ravel or Arrau, for various reasons.

Richter, contrary to musical child prodigies, was not a musical genius only, but rather on the line of multivectorial geniuses like Leonardo, or Einstein, for he was not only a musician, but also a poet, a painter, a philosopher, and, while this is never mentioned anywhere, an actor.

Svjatoslav RichterHe was stunningly honest in the interviews with Bruno Monsaingeon, telling the audience that what he basically learnt from his mentor, Heinrich Neuhaus, was to ‘present himself in a theatrical manner,’ posing in a way to attract the attention of the audience before he ever played the first note of the recital.

These remarks were not said in a joking manner, but Richter, who was naturally a rather shy and remote person, obviously needed this boost of his self-confidence to fully realize his genius in musical performance.


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