When I was a student at Trinity College of Music in London, there were two schools of thought when discussing piano giants, the schools of Maurizio Pollini and Emil Gilels. I remember jumping on the free tickets in the student common room for any concert featuring either of the the two. Listening to these wonderful pianists, and for free, was amazing and instructive.
At times, recording companies release CDs of full recitals. Not usually my cup of tea. Richter's Sofia Recital on Philips is pretty spectacular and this new DGG release caught my eye. One of my favourite pianists performing in one of my favourite cities. And in 1964, at the height of Gilels' considerable powers.
The recital was recorded professionally at the Seattle Opera House. This is the recital's first commercial release.
The program is varied and superbly played. Two of Gilels' staples, Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata and the Russian Dance from Stravinsky's Petrouchka are highlights on a disc of highlights. The Stravinsky receives a thunderous performance that brings down the house. I'm sure the piano technician would have to make a house call after the show. Listening to such a master live and in such mesmerizing form is a gift from DGG. A lovely celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth. The Waldstein is magnificent, easily as good as the new Esoteric remaster of his DGG commercial recording.
Gilel's Chopin is patrician but still manages to capture the dreamier aspect of the Mozart Variations. The Gilels flawless technique is really on show here. Of course, he's equally famous for his Prokofiev, and the 3rd Sonata is wonderful in his hands. The impressionists also receive the greatest care and attention.
The sound is good but any inconsistencies are erased by the excitement generated by the incredible playing. Audiophiles won't be buying this to demonstrate piano sound, but will be for the musicianship and the 'event'. And capturing the event is the most elusive. Very highly recommended.
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 'Waldstein'
Chopin: Variations on Mozart's 'La ci darem la mano' in B flat major, Op. 2
Debussy: Images pour piano - Book 1
Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28; Visions fugitives, Op. 22 (extracts)
Ravel: Alborada del gracioso (Miroirs No. 4)
Siloti: Transcription of J.S. Bach Prelude BWV 855 for piano in B minor
Stravinsky: Danse Russe (from Pétrouchka)
The Seattle Recital (1964)
Int. Release 19 Aug. 2016
1 CD / Download
0289 479 6288 5
Playing time -- 74:46