Adventure 07: Superhuman Powers of Concentration

Sviatoslav Richter: Chopin Etudes Op. 10 No. 1-4

Music has the power to spur performers on to superhuman feats of skill that from the audience just don't look humanly possible. Here is just such a performance…

Russian virtuoso Sviatoslav Richter (on DGG and EMI) was one of the towering figures of classical music in the 20th century with a repertoire as broad as any pianist before or since. He saw himself as a servant of the composer and criticized performers who took liberties with the letter of the score. He disliked recording, and preferred to perform in quickly arranged concerts in almost total darkness.

Richter believed that performing with only a single small light on the piano helped the audience focus on the music. Undoubtedly, it also helped him focus, and in this clip, he very nearly loses his cool. The BBC negotiated for months with Richter to be able to televise one of his performances. He grudgingly agreed, but stipulated that he have total control of the lighting and camera angles. Just after Richter launched into some of the most technically difficult pieces in all of the repertoire for piano, the video director decided to turn up the lights a little, thinking no one would notice. Well, Richter noticed, and in the middle of concentrating on his performance, he flashed a look to the camera that would melt steel. I've seen that look before on my dad's face when I was a kid!

Watch Richter's hands carefully. Superman is REAL!