BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor;” Piano Sonatas Op. 13 “Pathétique” & 27/2 “Moonlight” – Bruno Leonardo Gelber, with the Philharmonia Orchestra/ Ferdinand Leitner – EMI Classics

by | Nov 28, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor;” Piano Sonatas Op.
13 “Pathétique” & 27/2 “Moonligh” – Bruno Leonardo Gelber, with the
Philharmonia Orchestra/ Ferdinand Leitner – EMI Classics (69 mins.) ***:

After making a startling recording debut in the mid 60s with the two
Brahms concertos (neither of which was ever generally available in the
U.S., although the first, in D minor, was a titanic accomplishment) and
the third and 5th Beethoven concertos, the Argentinean pianist Bruno
Leonardo Gelber eventually wound up on Denon, for whom he embarked on
an unfinished Beethoven sonata cycle. Although his concert career has
followed a steady course over the years, including occasional North
American tours, he has made no new recordings in several decades.

In fact, I heard him at a since discontinued Stanford summer festival
around 1970, where he played the Brahms D minor with the Suisse Romande
Orchestre under Ansermet (during which a dog, running loose on the
outdoor stage, caused Ansermet to briefly lose his beat), and then,
perhaps as a party trick, played Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasy” for a
group of friends after the concert in the wrong key, claiming he had
only heard it once or twice and never formally studied it.

Along with the Brahms concertos (review to follow later this month),
EMI has reissued the Emperor conducted by the same Ferdinand Leitner
who accompanied Wilhelm Kempff in his famous last complete set of the
concertos for DGG. Unfortunately, the combination of Gelber’s
magisterial approach, powerful and elegant though it may be, is too
much of a piece with Leitner’s patrician conducting to spark the size
and shape the music demands. And the quality of the 1966 recording is
disappointing (the sound on the two sonatas, made in 1973 and 1975, is
quite good), less coherent than EMI’s best at the time. 

– Laurence Vittes
 

Related Reviews