MediciArts MM024-2, 75:33 (www.mediciarts.co.uk / Dist. by Naxos) ****:
Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000) appears in 1957 performances of Beethoven, the C Minor Concerto (25 February 1957) assisted by Mario Rossi (1902-1992), long associated with RAI orchestras in Milan and Rome. As one who had inscribed the complete 32 sonatas of Beethoven, Gulda early aligned himself with the structuralist tradition of Wilhelm Kempff, albeit that Gulda’s sense of form could be tempered by tonal warmth. The articulation throughout the concerto remains clean and vigorous, the trills hard and lean in the manner of Serkin. What might prove intriguing to collectors is the salon scale of performance, the blatant desire for intimacy in the midst of one of Beethoven’s most dramatic expressions. The first movement cadenza becomes virile and animated, quite potent as a vehicle of Gulda’s streamlined finesse.
Linear restraint marks the E Major Largo movement, which moves rather briskly despite its many changes of mood and meditative runs. The Cologne principal flute earns his kudos, and so too the cello section. The Rondo enjoys a pungent articulation, especially in Gulda’s repeated notes and bouncy filigree. Rossi manages some heady playing from his woodwinds and tympani, and the fugato section projects an engaging clarity. The final pages combine virtuoso bravura and directness of expression effectively, a classical conception of some brilliant, passionate music.
The realization of tempered passions marks Gulda’s Appassionata Sonata (22 Feburary 1957), although there are moments when Gulda’s own fires inflame the motions of his deft fingers. While Archipel had issued the A Major Sonata, Op. 101, these MedicArts remasterings from Wolfgang Ellers bring the alternately percussive and rounded tones from Gulda into vibrant relief. The sonics in the theme and variations of the Appassionata tend to be dry, unresonant, but the ensuing last movement and Presto move us to a distinct shudder in our limbs, a reminder of Lenin‘s remark that the whirlwind in this music could make us embrace all of mankind, at the risk of sacrificing the aims of political revolt. The Op. 101 does not neatly fall into Beethoven’s middle or late style, although like the F Minor Quartet, it synthesizes any number of classical procedures into a small space. Within its determined economy are pages rife with sudden, painful outbursts that Gulda seizes with both, often syncopated hands.
— Gary Lemco