Errol Morris’s psychological portrait of pianist Sviatoslav Richter

Posted on: June 25, 2019

“One of the world’s greatest pianists takes the stage. He panics. Where is the plastic lobster? He doesn’t know. He only knows he can’t play without it,” writes film director Errol Morris in Friday’s (6/21) New York Times. “The Tokyo concert hall is filled to capacity…. The program is late Beethoven: the 30th, 31st and 32nd piano sonatas…. The pianist is Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter, who died in 1997 but whose legacy of recordings is still unrivaled.” The article discusses Richter’s struggles with depression and includes audio clips of Richter in performance as well as interviews with film director Bruno Monsaingeon and pianist Jeremy Denk in which they talk about concert rituals. Richter “was the opposite of Glenn Gould, who abandoned live concerts at the age of 31 and retreated to a recording studio…. Richter … hated studio recordings; he preferred live performances. [But] in the middle of January 1974, Richter had a veritable breakdown. He stopped practicing entirely and refused to speak to anyone. For three months he cleared his calendar of concerts…. It’s not clear when Richter took up his plastic lobster. He writes about it in a letter dated Sept. 14–15, 1974.”

Posted June 25, 2019