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The Russian Piano Tradition - Emil Gilels, Yakov Zak


Release Date: 06/12/2007 
Label:  Apr (Appian) Catalog #: 5664   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ferruccio BusoniWolfgang Amadeus MozartCamille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Emil GilelsYakov Zak
Conductor:  Kiril Kondrashin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR State Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Another valuable example of The Russian Piano Tradition series.

The 1949-50 recordings of Emil Gilels and Yakov Zak provide some of the most vibrant, life affirming and scintillating duo playing on disc. Both men had been born in Odessa and had studied with Neuhaus and it’s fortunate that APR will be covering the entirety of their duo performances in this series; this particular release falls under the APR rubric of The Neuhaus School. And nothing withers or stales the brimming energy of those sessions, even the gloomy and typically unhelpful Russian recording.

There are three examples of Mozart-Busoni here. The Overture to The Magic Flute is full of the most brilliant verve, vibrant tone colours, and
Read more lock-tight ensemble playing. The organ-like sonorities of the Fantasia in F minor are conveyed in the bass with saturnine, subterranean control – and the finale is dispatched with a dashing, convulsive attack. The Fugue in C minor is Mozart sans Busoni and shows both men’s finger precision. For the Concerto in E flat K365 Gilels and Zak were joined by Kondrashin in a warm hearted, coolly recorded traversal. Two things in particular strike one; the fine, anonymous cadenzas and the liquid, flowing cantabile of the slow movement. The buffo drama of the finale is another splendid example of this duo’s winning way with the concerto.

Splendid though all the foregoing is – and it can barely be denied – the recording of Saint-Saëns’ Variations for two pianos on a theme of Beethoven is, if anything, in a league of its own. Though it only lasts seventeen minutes the variations, in this performance, offers a lexicon of great duo playing, an arsenal of colour and delight. The poco meno mosso for instance is a fulsome example of perfectly judged and executed dynamics and acutely perceptive rubati. The molto allegro (track thirteen) is a fulcrum of precision and wit, the Funeral March richly characterised and sonorously projected.

The APR transfers all derive from LPs. They have, understandably, been able to do little with the inherently shallow sound of the original Moscow studio set-up, which was unusually recessed even for the time. But otherwise, with the usual fine Bryan Crimp notes, and general standard of the production, this is another valuable example of The Russian Piano Tradition series preserving some of the most outstanding duo performances on disc.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Duettino concertante after Mozart's Piano Concerto, K 459 by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Emil Gilels (Piano), Yakov Zak (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Berlin, Germany 
2.
Die Zauberflöte, K 620: Overture by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Emil Gilels (Piano), Yakov Zak (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
Notes: Arranged: Ferruccio Busoni 
3.
Fugue for 2 Pianos in C minor, K 426 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Emil Gilels (Piano), Yakov Zak (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1783; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Concerto for 2 Pianos in E flat major, K 365 (316a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Emil Gilels (Piano), Yakov Zak (Piano)
Conductor:  Kiril Kondrashin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR State Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1779; Salzburg, Austria 
5.
Variations for 2 Pianos on a theme of Beethoven, Op. 35 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Emil Gilels (Piano), Yakov Zak (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; France 

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