Richter - The Enigma

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Details At A Glance

Category Documentary Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 154:18 minutes  Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Director Bruno Monsaingeon

Warner Vision
Starring Sviatoslav Richter
RRP $39.95 Music Sviatoslav Richter

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital None
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages Russian/French (MPEG 2.0)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles French
Annoying Product Placement No, not really
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The late Sviatoslav Richter is recognized as one of the great pianists of the century, but was also recognized as something of an enigma amongst musicians. Why? Quite simply, he was not a man bent on self promotion, as is so often the norm amongst musicians, and was rarely interviewed. Shortly before his death, he sat down and recorded a lengthy interview, which forms the basis of this quite interesting look at his life and his music.

Transfer Quality


    This is a rather difficult transfer to comment upon as it comprises a significant amount of archival material, both motion and still.

    The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    The more recently filmed segments of the transfer are quite sharp and well defined. The archival material varies in quality, and is often dependent upon what it was filmed for: film material comes up better than television material, whilst the home video material is quite poor. Overall, this comes up very well indeed, considering the sources.

    The transfer is a mixture of colour and black and white material. The colour sections are quite vibrant. The black and white sections are somewhat variable in presentation, but mostly quite bright and well contrasted.

    There are no apparent MPEG or video artefacts, taking into account the variable nature of the source material. Film artefacts in the transfer were not a problem, although obviously some of the archival material is quite badly affected.

    This is a dual sided disc, and technically is not a flipper as far as I am concerned: side one contains the first episode of the two part documentary, with the second episode on side two. The turnover occurs at 77:15.


    Unusually, this disc contains an MPEG only soundtrack. The small label affixed to the case stating Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is incorrect - I could not locate any such soundtrack.
[Ed. Warner Vision have stated that they have rectified this fault and this sticker is not present on newer stocks of this title.]

    There is only the one soundtrack on the DVD, the MPEG 2.0 Russian/French soundtrack - mostly the Russian of Sviatoslav Richter, with Nina Darliac (his wife) adding her comments in French. Subtitles in three languages are selectable to aid understanding: French, English and German. Naturally, I required the English subtitles to accompany the Russian soundtrack.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand - if you can follow Russian.

    Audio sync did not appear to be a problem for most of the disc, although the archival film of the late Glenn Gould is out of sync - most likely due to poor ADR work.

    But it is the music that sets this apart - and Sviatoslav Richter's repertoire is extremely wide ranging. And none of the performances are anything but illuminating of the great man's talent. Everything from Handel and Bach, through Haydn and Mozart to Shostakovich and Prokofiev gets an outing here, mostly in small excerpts. Added to that are some excerpts of other great musicians such as David Oistrakh, Msitslav Rostropovich and Benjamin Britten.

    This is not a surround-encoded soundtrack, and there is no use at all of the surround channels nor the bass channel.


    Sorry - none at all, apart from a booklet detailing the problems of getting Richter onto film and the music played.



R4 vs R1

    As far as I can determine, this has not been released in Region 1.


    Whilst the subject matter will not suit all, I found this to be an interesting insight into a great pianist and a great musician.

    The video quality is a little variable owing to the source material, but in general is better than average.

    The audio quality is good and suits the documentary very well indeed.

    There are no significant extras to be concerned with.

    One interesting point - this is the first DVD in my collection that retails for less than the equivalent video tape, at least according to my local retailer. Hopefully, it is not going to be the last - and kudos to Warner Music Vision for being the first to achieve this to my knowledge.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
18th October 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL