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Beethoven: Piano Concertos No 4 & 5 / Gilels, Ludwig

Release Date: 09/13/2005 
Label:  Emi Great Recordings Of The Century Catalog #: 76829   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Emil Gilels
Conductor:  Leopold Ludwig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Gilels seems astonishingly at home with Beethoven -- his sovereign command is never in doubt as he shines from first note to last with crystal fingerwork throughout.

Classic accounts of Beethoven here, as Bryce Morrison's overtly laudatory booklet note makes clear. There are many other Gilels versions of both concertos, but none can boast the resplendent orchestral playing that the Philharmonia delivers nor the excellent - if somewhat beefy - sound provided by Walter Legge and Robert Gooch.

Gilels' discography lists a number of other Fourths: Leningrad with Sanderling (1957); Czech PO also with Sanderling (1958); live from Naples with Pradella (1965); the famous Cleveland cycle of 1968; USSRSO under Masur
Read more (1976) and a live Bavarian performance with Sawallisch (1979). Personally I am most familiar with the Szell Cleveland cycle - with which I was brought up. There is significantly more humanity in these readings of over a decade earlier.

The opening of the present Fourth is very serene and unhurried. Originally issued on Columbia 33CX 1055, this is a magnificent performance. The Fourth is in some ways the trickiest, finger-wise, of the Beethovens. Not that anyone would guess it from Gilels' finger strength at around 9:20 in the first movement. Only some muddying in the orchestral textures detracts - as I say, the orchestral recording can be a bit obscured at times.

Curiously the orchestra sounds rather dry at the opening of the second movement, something one forgets immediately at Gilels' hyper-placatory entrance. The end of Orpheus and the Beasts is magical; the finale is full of drive; the strings are nicely together at the opening. If the cadenza is perhaps a touch heavy to begin with, it is small cause for complaint. This is memorable music-making.

There are apparently eleven Gilels 'Emperors'. Of these I would love to hear the live Chicago with Martinon of 1966. With Ludwig, Gilels seems astonishingly at home, able to unleash the largest fortissimi: the chords around 10'30 in the first movement. His sovereign command is never in doubt here, as he shines from first note to last. Fingerwork is crystal throughout.

Ludwig, excellent in No. 4, if anything excels himself in the 'Emperor'. The very opening E flat chord is absolutely resplendent, while the opening of the Adagio un poco mosso is unutterably tender, the perfect preparation for Gilels' magic touch. Nice to hear the accompanying woodwind chords around 3'30, just a pity the oboes are not together at 3'34 - a small point perhaps, but once you've heard it you start expecting it on rehearings.

The finale is big-boned, a testament, perhaps, to the barn-storming, revolutionary image of Beethoven, with Gilels' iron fingers again making Beethoven's demands seem laughably easy. I should report a pressing error on my copy just before the very end (8'26).

These performances demand to be heard.

-- Colin Clarke, MusicWeb International


These are two of the finest performances I've ever heard--not just of Beethoven concertos, but of anything. You'll not hear a better melding of lyricism and flat-out brio if you listen to CDs for the next umpteen years...

-- American Record Guide [11-12/1997]
Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Emil Gilels (Piano)
Conductor:  Leopold Ludwig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1957 
Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Emil Gilels (Piano)
Conductor:  Leopold Ludwig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1957 

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