Sviatoslav Richter

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Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter, also spelt Svyatoslav Teofilovich Rikhter, (born March 7, or March 20 (New Style) 1915, Zhitomir, Ukraine, Russian Empire, died August 1, 1997, Moscow, Russia) was a 20th century Ukrainian pianist whose mastery of his instrument made him one of the most distinguished pianist of his time. His most notable performances include those of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and of Franz Schubert's Sonata in B flat Major.[1]

Early Life

Richter was born to Theophile and Anna Richter on March 7, or March 20 in the New Style, 1915, in the city of Zhitomir, now spelt Zhytomyr, in Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. The city had a large Jewish community.[2] He moved to Odessa at an early age. His mother Anna was an artist and music-lover, while his father Theophile was an organist and composer; despite this, he gave his son only basic musical skills; Richter was mainly self-taught. He could play opera scores at the age of eight, partly due to his ability to memorise music at a glance. As a teenager, he taught at the Odessa Opera where others were astounded by his musical ability. He also composed some music but by the age of twenty he had decided to become a pianist.

Performing years

Richter made his concert debut in 1935. Following this, he went to Moscow where he enrolled at the Conservatory. In Moscow he met Sergey Prokofiev, and later went on to premiere many of his sonatas. In the 1950s the West became able to obtain recordings of his performances while he performed in a tour in Eastern Europe and China. He made his first performance in the West in 1960 at the Carnegie Hall to great critical acclaim. He became known for his precarious lifestyle, giving concerts when in need of money. As he became elderly his ability to memorise faded and from then on he started using scores. He gave his last concert in 1995, in poor health, and performed pieces by Haydn and Beethoven. He died in Moscow on August 1, 1997.[3]


  1. "Richter, Sviatoslav." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2011. Web. 29 Dec. 2011.
  2. Jewish Encyclopedia
  3. Introduction to Sviatoslav Richter