Friedrich Gulda – Piano Recital (1968) / Live at Birdland (1956) – HAYDN: Andante con Variazioni; MOZART: Sonata in la minore; SCHUBERT: Impromptus Nos. 1, 2, 3 & 4; BEETHOVEN: “Waldstein” Sonata Op. 53; Live at Birdland: Intro, Dodo, Night in Tunisia, Air from Other Planets, New Shoes, Bernie’s Tune, Dark Glow, Scruby (with Jimmy Cleveland, trombone/Aaron Bell, bass/Seldon Powell, tenor sax/ Nick Stabulas, drums/Idress Sulieman, trumpet/Phil Woods, alto sax) – Fabula Classica/Ermitage FAB 12074-2 (2 CDs), 77:58, 37:04 [Distr. by Qualiton] *****:
Friedrich Gulda was a concert pianist who straddled the genres into jazz just as successfully as Andre Previn, and even surpassing him in the area of classical piano standards. The Austrian pianist, who died in 2000, was early in his career the third of the “Viennese troika” of concert pianists Jorg Demus and Paul Badua-Skoda. From the 1950s on he often combined jazz and classical in his concerts, as does this interesting reissue. He wrote a Prelude and Fugue which was performed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In 1982 he teamed up with Chick Corea for some length improvisations mixing jazz and classical. His unorthodox practices earned him the nickname of “terrorist pianist,” but he was regarded as one of the outstanding pianists of the 20th century. His students included Martha Argerich and Claudio Abbado. He expressed a wish to die on the birthday of his most-adored composer, Mozart, and in fact did so at age 69.
I’ve personally played both of the first two classical works in student piano recitals, and have never heard the degree of expression and drama that Gulda finds in both the Haydn and Mozart selections. The fact that he was known for his Beethoven interpretations is supported by his strong performance of the Waldstein Sonata here.
Guess this review will have to go in the classical reissue section, but the Birdland live recording is no slouch either. With four originals by Gulda it swings like mad; this is definitely not a classical performer who just dips his fingers into the jazz world for a kick now and then, but someone who is equally adept in both worlds! Sonics are fine on both CDs. The notes are entirely in Italian so most English listeners will find no information there.
– John Sunier