During the course of 28 years beginning in 1955, the great Soviet pianist Emil Gilels toured North America 12 times. We now have a previously unreleased live recording of his recital at the Seattle Opera House in 1964 that provides a vivid snapshot of his unique, ever-evolving artistry.
Gilels tended to be a big-picture player, objective, not given to lingering over details and generally preferring very quick tempi. Few pianists would risk opening a recital with the "Waldstein", and Gilels’s performance suffers from such a daring gesture. It takes a few measures for the recording engineer to adjust for a more focused sound, but essentially nothing is lost. Tempi throughout tend to be pressured. Notes are dropped and occasionally automatic pilot takes over. The prevailing overdrive weakens the emotional contrast between the "Rondo"’s moderate allegretto and the "prestissimo" coda, which could scarcely go faster and remain audible. But this is the weakest element of an otherwise intriguing programme.
Chopin’s ‘Là ci darem la mano’ Variations are both virtuoso and beguiling. Gilels captures the whimsy of the introduction, exploiting its mercurial mood shifts to make arrival at Mozart’s duet like stepping into the sunshine. Each of the five variations is imbued with a distinct character, building to a polonaise finale of extraordinary brilliance. It is a perfect showcase for Gilel’s justly admired pianistic finesse.
The transition from young Chopin’s Warsaw to Prokofiev’s St Petersburg in 1917 is abrupt, surely as Gilels intended. Here speed has a salutary effect, pointing up the Third Sonata’s larger shapes and overall structure to fine advantage while rendering the lyricism of more moderate sections all the more poignant. Following this surge of burgeoning energy, the first book of Debussy’s Images looms like an oasis. The guileless simplicity of ‘Hommage à Rameau’ achieves a touching eloquence. A return to Prokofiev, with six of the Visions fugitives, serves as a palate-cleanser. A bracingly piquant ‘Alborada del gracioso’ concludes the formal programme. Decidedly more Russian than French, the vibrant colours of Benois and Bakst nevertheless suit the piece well.
If posterity has favoured Richter over Gilels, that doesn’t diminish the pleasure of revisiting the unique strengths and versatility of this impressive pianist.Patrick Rucker
Source : http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/emil-gilels-the-seattle-recital
The Seattle Recital
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Sonata n° 21 in C Major "Waldstein", Op. 53
1 I. Allegro con brio 10:53
2 II. Introduzione. Adagio molto 3:20
3 III. Rondo. Allegretto moderato - Prestissimo 9:02
4 Variations on 'Là ci darem la mano", Op. 2 15:08
(from Mozart's Don Giovanni)
5 Piano Sonata n° 3 in A Minor, Op. 28 6:53
Allegro tempestoso - Moderato - Allegro tempestoso
Moderato - Più lento - Più animato - Allegro I
Poco più mosso
6 I. Reflets dans l'eau. Andantino molto 4:13
7 II. Hommage à Rameau. Lent et grave 5:13
8 III. Mouvement. Animé 3:19
9 I. Lentamente 1:02
10 III. Allegretto 0:53
11 V. Molto giocoso 0:20
12 XI. Con vivacità 1:00
13 X. Ridicolosamente 0:47
14 XVII. Poetico 1:29
15 Alborada del gracioso (from Miroirs, n° 4) 5:48
16 Danse russe (from Trois mouvements de "Petrouchka", n° 1) 2:37
Johann Sebastian Bach
17 Prelude in B Minor, BWV 855a 3:09
*Emil Gilels - p
Recorded live at Opera House, Seattle ; December 6, 1964