Notes and Editorial Reviews
Reviews of some of the original recordings that make up this set:
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto (Mehta)
Gilels's playing is leonine and fiery, and his virtuosity is never less than imposing. There is much poetry, too...
-- Gramophone [6/1983]
Brahms: Piano Concerto no 2
"Gilels made two recordings of this concerto. The later version was made for DG in the early 1970s with Eugen Jochum and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and has earned a high reputation over the years. This earlier version, made in January 1958, is no less remarkable and very different. Perhaps it was the temporary transatlantic influence of Reiner and his orchestra which persuaded Gilels
to see the concerto as a vehicle for a display of brilliant virtuoso playing, with fast tempos and little relaxation except in the third movement. certainly the playing in the overture has the same characteristics. But when this approach was harnessed to Gilel's intellectual strength the result was a performance of great power."
-- Gramophone [6/1986]
Chopin: Piano Concerto no 1
"In its subtle phrasing, its superlative technical accomplishments, its complete mastery of the idiom and the instrument, the Gilels Op. 11 is one of the best ever made. With Ormandy and his suave orchestra giving a beautifully wrought accompaniment (and with the twenty-five-year-old recording still sounding quite acceptable), this is a special record for those who love this work. The variety of invention in this ever-fresh music is dazzling. The thematic coherence, the melodic continuity, the harmonic originality, the unceasing flow of inspired, imaginative writing continue to touch me after forty-five years of familiarity."
-- Howard Kornblum, Fanfare [3/1989]
Liszt, Schubert: Sonatas
Gilels's Liszt Sonata is tightly argued; even a little too much so. There is, perhaps, a spatial element missing, with the pianist going from one episode to the next without much pause for breath. Nevertheless, although one may not entirely be carried along by the performance, the impression of sheer permanence, control and pianistic finish certainly makes one sit up and listen. At the close of the one-movement Sonata, however (from the prestissimo octave section onwards), the pianist pulls out all the stops and leaves the listener with a feeling that the reading was rather more fiery than actually it had been.
I cannot let the sound-quality go unmentioned. It is quite brilliant for the date. The tone practically leaps out at you from the speakers and stands comparison with many modern digital recordings. The Schubert D major is fractionally less vivid, but still remarkable for 1960. Here Gilels plays the opening movement fast. At this tempo, observance of the exposition repeat seems only natural. It is a performance rock-steady in matters of rhythm, though one has to concede that much of the effect is achieved through making the greatest contrasts in dynamics, with the massiveness of the first motif soon giving way to a scampering, nimble-fingered delicacy for the triplet quaver passages.
Some may find the slow movement a little mannered and over-pensive. But still, it would be hard to deny Gilels's success in highlighting the harmonic daring of Schubert's writing. The pianist knew exactly how to feature various episodes to optimum effect.
I had an impression that the sound was slightly fuller and more bass-orientated for the Scherzo and finale. The latter movement is again on the quick side, so that the semiquaver variations are more virtuosic than is usual. However, this in no way detracts from what is a most charming, if slightly feverish and unsettling reading.
– Gramophone [4/1994
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Emil Gilels (Piano)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Date of Recording: 10/29/1955
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