Gilels plays Beethoven on Esoteric

I don’t usually do reviews of discontinued CDs, but this recent gift I received is so brilliant, I thought our readers should have a chance to search for it. The original price of $79.00 will be hard to find. Many Esoteric CDs are going for twice, five times, even ten times the original price. The Solti Ring goes for $1500 and up. Yes, Esoteric remasters are that good.

These Beethoven performances cobbled from several 70s DGG releases could not be finer. They are musically and technically from the mind and fingers of a giant. Where the Waldstein can sound a little like a technical exercise or even cartoonish in some hands, Gilels finds the rich nourishment between the myriad of notes. The Appassionata is just that, and plenty of it. But so controlled. This is not 50 Shades of Gilels, all grey and soulless. It heaves, breathes, and surges. And in all the right places. It’s also the most technically assured performance I’ve heard. Listen to the last page and witness utter control — with others, it always seem to go just about off the rails. Not with Gilels.

The sound is miraculous. Perfectly defined, perfectly judged. No, the DGG was not this. I have most of Gilels’ Beethoven on CD, and while very good, they do not have this depth, where the microphone digs deep into the sound and captures the essence of his sound and touch. Returning to the Tidal Hi Fi version was instructive. Good for sure, but the Esoteric is in another league.

If you’re a fan of piano, Beethoven or Gilels, have a search for this magnificent release. You just may get lucky.

15 Variationen mit Fuge Es-dur op. 35
Sonate No. 21 C-dur op. 53 “Waldstein”
Sonate No. 23 f-moll op. 57 “Appassionata”

Emil Gilels, piano

Original cover for Eroica Variations.

Executive Producer: Hanno Rinke [op. 35];Günther Breest [opp. 53, 57]

Recording Producer: Werner Mayer [op. 35]; Günther Breest [opp. 53, 57]

Tonmeister (Balance Engineer): Klaus Scheibe [opp. 35, 57]; Hans-Peter Schweigmann [op. 53]

Recording Engineer: Klaus Behrens [op. 35]; Hans-Rudolf Müller [op. 53]; Volker Martin [op. 57]

Editing: Reinhild Schmidt [op. 35]; Jobst Eberhardt [opp. 53, 57]

Location: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin [op. 35]; UFA-Tonstudio, Berlin [op. 53]; Johannesstift, Berlin-Spandau [op. 57]

Recording Date: September 1980; 9-13 January 1972; 12-16 June 1973

Esoteric Remastering

Producer : Motoaki Ohmachi (ESOTERIC COMPANY)

Mastering Engineer : Kazuie Sugimoto

(Victor Creative Media Co., Ltd. Mastering Center)