Emil Gilels, piano = SCARLATTI: 5 Sonatas; SCHUMANN: Piano Sonata No. 1 in F# Minor, Op. 11; BACH: Aria and Variations in the Italian Manner, BWV 989; TCHAIKOVSKY: 3 Pieces from Six Morceaux; PROKOFIEV: Toccata in D Minor – BBC Legends

by | Nov 10, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Emil Gilels, piano = SCARLATTI: 5 Sonatas; SCHUMANN: Piano
Sonata No. 1 in F# Minor, Op. 11; BACH: Aria and Variations in the
Italian Manner, BWV 989; TCHAIKOVSKY: 3 Pieces from Six Morceaux, Op.
19; PROKOFIEV: Toccata in D Minor, Op. 11

BBC Legends BBCL 4015-2  78:24 (Distrib. Koch) ****:

The legendary Russian pianist Emil Gilels (1916-1985) began his career
in the bold, romantic tradition, and his early inscriptions, like that
of the Liszt 9th Hungarian Rhapsody, were played for bravura in large
strokes. But Gilels developed artistically, and his later more
introspective style, as here represented on this fine BBC collection
from two venues: Memorial Hall, Farrington Street, London (22 April
1957) and the Concert Hall, BBC Broadcasting House, London (27 February
1959), adds the German and Viennese classics to a rich palette of
Schumann, Tchaikovsky and compatriot Prokofiev.

Gilels sported a small arsenal of Scarlatti sonatas, and we hear three
of the same group he offered in his Locarno concert 25 September 1984
(on Ermitage ERM 163): the D Minor, K. 141; the lovely B Minor, K. 27;
and the A Major, K. 533. The large C# minor Sonata, K. 247 traverses
several moods in the course of some deft figurations. As always, the
Gilels tone is smoothly silken, the articulation clean, and the shifts
of registration seamless. The B Minor Sonata was a Gilels staple, and
he plays it with a broad rubato totally absent in Michelangelo’s polar
extreme. The rarity is the Bach Aria and Variations, perhaps a
counterpart to the Gavotte and Variations by Rameau. Strength and
sureness of pulse mark the aria and ten variants, which Gilels offers
in a plain, unmannered style. Schumann’s First Sonata remained dear to
Gilels’ heart; and after the choppy and galloping metrics of the Un
poco Adagio–Allegro vivace, the little Aria sings forth most tenderly.
The nervous energy returns with a vengeance for the Scherzo and Finale.
Whether “butterflies,” children’s marches, or simply connected
contrapuntal fantasy-pieces, the Sonata has the fleeting, kaleidoscopic
beauty created by one of the League of David. Both Schumann and Grieg
seem to have influenced Tchaikovsky’s Reverie du soir and Album Leaf
from Op. 19; the C# Minor Nocturne carries the composer’s own signature
of bittersweet nostalgia. The Prokofiev Toccata spits vinegar after
Tchaikovsky’s sentimentality, with Gilels almost punishing us with its
pungent sarcasm. Connoisseurs, however, will appreciate how the lion’s
power is still subdued by the poet.

–Gary Lemco

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01