"Nobody played Schubert like Richter. I could bring up any number of felicities—his sense of narrative and structure, his exquisite touch, the attention he paid to the most innocuous detail, the way his interpretations of the standard repertoire seemed at once controlled and improvisatory—but when I think of Richter’s Schubert, one thing comes to mind first: tempo. Slow tempos, glacial tempos, tempos that make no sense on paper, but that, when heard, transport the interpretations into visionary terrain."
[To Sigmund Lebert, December 1868.] Dear friend,
The annotations to Schubert's Sonatas demanded more time than I had anticipated. For some weeks past I have been working industriously at them—now they are finished ad unguem.
Our pianists scarcely realise what a glorious treasure they have in Schubert's pianoforte compositions. Most pianists play them over en passant, notice here and there repetitions, lengthinesses, apparent carelessnesses, and then lay them aside. It is true that Schubert himself is somewhat to blame for the very unsatisfactory manner in which his admirable pianoforte pieces are treated. He was too immoderately productive, wrote incessantly, mixing insignificant with important things, grand things with mediocre work, paid no heed to criticism, and always soared on his wings. Like a bird in the air, he lived in music and sang in angelic fashion.
O never-resting, ever-welling genius, full of tenderness! O my cherished Hero of the Heaven of Youth! Harmony, freshness, power, grace, dreamings, passion, soothings, tears and flames pour forth from the depths and heights of thy soul, and thou makest us almost forget the greatness of thine excellence in the fascination of thy spirit!——
Let us limit our edition of Schubert's pianoforte compositions to 2 Sonatas, the G major Fantasia (a Virgilian poem!), the splendid "Wanderer"-dithyramb (C major Fantasia), 2 books of Impromptus, Moments Musicals and all his Valses (among which there are gems of the first water). All this will be sent to you forthwith; and in addition Weber's Polonaises.
In the Sonatas you will find some various readings, which appear to me tolerably appropriate. Several passages, and the whole of the conclusion of the C major Fantasia, I have re-written in modern pianoforte form, and I flatter myself that Schubert would not be displeased with it.
The pianoforte Duets of Schubert (Holle's edition) please address to Weimar, as I have no time left for revisings in Rome. Send me also a copy of the "Aufforderung zum Tanz" ["Invitation to the Dance"] that is so drummed at everywhere. You forgot to let me have this piece of salon-fireworks with the other music, and I too did not remember it at the time; years ago I had to play this "Invitation" over and over again, times innumerable—without the smallest "invitation" on my part—and it became a detestable nuisance to me. However, such a show-piece must not be omitted in Cotta's edition of Weber.
Your visit to Weimar, dear friend, will be very welcome and agreeable to me. When there we shall be able to discuss, weigh and settle a number of things very conveniently.
With sincere thanks, I remain
Yours in all friendship,
Villa d'Este, December 2nd, 1868
P.S. — I have not received the French translation of your Method.
"First of all, one must definitely draw a line between what is really indeed difficult and what isn’t. We all know that what is most difficult is to play a Mozart adagio perfectly well. Technically! I wish more people would understand this; when most people speak of technique, they still speak of the Liszt rhapsodies, as opposed to anything else. A Beethoven adagio, a Schubert sonata (the slow movement) are the most difficult thing to achieve on the keyboard. It reaches such dimensions of nervous control, and of sound control, and if really anybody can achieve this from A to Z, then we can say that this person is not only a great musician, but a great technician.”