Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997), like Vladimir Horowitz, was a closeted gay man who had a life-long female companion. Richter was a Soviet sponsored cultural ambassador who had everything to lose if his sexual nature reached the public eye. Consequently, biographers ignore or gloss over anything about his personal relationships. However, we are left with a towering musical legacy, especially through recordings and videotaped performances. Most critics agree that Richter was one of the greatest pianists of all time.
Back in the days when your blogger was a university piano performance major, I knew nothing about Richter’s personal proclivities, but most of my fellow students repeated the rampant (and true) gay rumors about Horowitz and Shura Cherkassky, another Russian keyboard titan.
Richter, who was stunningly handsome as a young man, suffered from many personal demons. He was withdrawn and not given to interviews, and often he insisted on performing in completely darkened halls illuminated by a single light bulb above the keyboard. Subject to periods of keen depression, he went through a period during which he had to travel with a plastic lobster in order to cope with the rigors of constant performing to unrealistic public expectations. I’m not making this up.
Nevertheless, Richter left us with recordings that remain benchmarks of certain repertoire. His vast repertoire encompassed eighty-odd recital programs, everything from Bach and Handel to Gershwin. He was also a quick study. He learned Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7, which was dedicated to him, in four days, thus able to meet the deadline for its premiere.
But enough words. Let’s listen to his music while we marvel at his astonishing technique.
Role models of greatness.
Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.