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Emil Gilels Edition
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in C minor Op. 48 No. 1 [5:37]
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35 [.
Grave-doppio movimento [5:35]
Scherzo [6:38]
Marche funèbre [9:30]
Finale, presto [1:13]
Polonaise in A flat major Op. 53 "Heroic" [6:31]
Impromptu No. 2 in F sharp major Op. 36 [5:28]
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor Op. 58
Allegro maestoso [10:14]
Scherzo, molto vivace [2:29]
Largo [8:59]
Finale [5:29]
Recording: 11-1949 (1), 9-1949 (2-6), 3-1949 (7), 1-1977 (8-11)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Piano Sonata in B minor (recording 1949) [29:08]
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15 "Rákoczy March" [4:20]
Piano Sonata in B minor (recording 1965) [27:30]
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 "Peszter Carnaval" [10:28]
Valse oubliée No. 1 [2:29]
Recording: 11-1949 (1), 12-1959 (2), 3-1965 (3), 11-1949 (5)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Piano Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor Op. 11
Introduzione-allegro vivace [10:14]
Aria [3:24]
Scherzo e intermezzo, Allegrissimo [4:47]
Finale, allegro un poco maestoso [11:34]
Arabesque in C major Op. 18 [7:28]
Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor Op. 22 (with original finale)
So rasch wie möglich [5:58]
Andantino, getragen [4:01]
Scherzo, sehr rasch und markiert [1:37]
Finale [5:49]
Carnaval, Op. 9 [23:42]
Recording: 6-1957 (1-4), 12-1959 (5), 5-1950 (6-10)
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor Op. 14
Allegro ma non troppo [6:15]
Scherzo, allegro marcato [1:52]
Andante [5:01]
Vivace [4:28]
Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor Op. 28 [8:18]
Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major Op. 84
Andante dolce [15:01]
Andante sognando [3:57]
Vivace [9:29]
Visions fugitives (selection) Op.22 [9:42]
Toccata Op. 11 [4:34]
March from "Love for Three Oranges" [1:40]
Recording: 5-1951 (1-4), 1-1984 (5), 1-1967 (6-8), unknown (9-11)
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1916)

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F sharp minor Op. 23
Drammatico [6:51]
Allegretto [2:49]
Andante, attacca: presto con fuoco [11:09]
Piano Sonata No. 4 in F sharp minor Op. 30 [7:08]
Préludes Op. 74
Douloureux [1:16]
Trés lent, contemplative [1:28]
Allegro drammatico [1:02]
Lent, vague, indécis [1:18]
Fier, belliqueux [1:15]
Nicolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)

Sonata in G minor Op. 22 [16:32]
Recording: 1-1984 (1-3, 5-9), 3-1957 (4), 1-1954 (10)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Suite Pour le Piano
Prélude [3:30]
Sarabande [3:52]
Toccata [3:40]
Etude Pour les arpeges [4:14]
Images, book I
Reflets dans l'eau [4:11]
Hommage a Rameau [5:27]
Mouvement [3:09]
Pagodes [4:22]
La soirée dans Grenade [4:59]
Jardins sous la pluie [2:11]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Prélude, from Le Tombeau de Couperin [3:10]
Forlane, from Le Tombeau de Couperin [6:52]
Toccata, from Le Tombeau de Couperin [4:11]
Pavane pour une infante défunte [6:20]
Jeux d'eau [5:22]
Recording: 1954 (1-10), 1950 (11-13), 1968 (14,15)
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

6 Morceaux, Op. 19
Reverie du soir [4:08]
Scherzo humoristique [5:00]
Feuillet d'album [3:15]
Nocturne [2:46]
Capriccioso [4:24]
Theme original et variations [6:00]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)

Piano Sonata No. 2 in E minor Op. 75
Moderato [8:32]
Scherzo [6:06]
Finale [8:03]
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)

Daisies Op. 38 No. 3 [2:23]
Vocalise Op. 34 No. 14 [6:00]
Prelude in C sharp minor Op. 3 No. 2 [3:51]
Prelude in B flat major Op. 23 No. 2 [3:33]
Prelude in G flat major Op. 23 No. 10 [3:19]
Prelude in B major Op. 32 No. 11 [2:25]
Prelude in G minor Op. 23 No. 5 [3:55]
Etude-tableau in E flat minor Op. 39 No. 5 [4:49]
Recording: 12-1977 (10-17), unknown date (1-9)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Four Ballades Op. 10
No. 1 in D minor, andante [4:43]
No. 2 in D major, andante [6:41]
No. 3 in B minor, Intermezzo, allegro [4:13]
No. 4 in B major, andante con moto [7:23]
Fantasien Op. 116
Capriccio in D minor, presto energico [2:05]
Intermezzo in A minor, andante [3:37]
Capriccio in G minor, allegro passionate [2:59]
Intermezzo in E major, adagio [3:07]
Intermezzo in E minor, andante con grazia [2:52]
Intermezzo in E major, andantino teneramente [2:51]
Capriccio in D minor, allegro agitato [2:22]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Piano Sonata in A flat major Op. 39
Allegro moderato [12:48]
Andante [6:32]
Menuetto capriccioso, presto assai [3:52]
Rondo [6:08]
Recording: 12/1977 (1-4), 3/1965 (5-11), 10/1967 (12-15)
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor Op. 30
1.Allegro ma non tanto [15:04]
2.Intermezzo [10:19]
3.Finale, alla breve [14:19]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor Op. 23
4.Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso [19:02]
5.Andante sostenuto [6:08]
6.Allegro con fuoco [6:33]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Kyrill Kondrashin
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major [18:32]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor Op. 11
Allegro maestoso [20:00]
Larghetto [9:51]
Vivace [9:40]
Andante Spianato et grande polonaise Brillante in E flat major Op. 22
Andante spianato [5:05]
Polonaise brillante [8:54]
Emil Gilels (piano)
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Kyrill Kondrashin (1,5/6)
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kyrill Kondrashin (2-4)
Recording: 1-1949 (1), 10-1962 (2-4), 6-1952 (5/6)
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92615 [10 CDs: 68.50 + 73.57 + 78.38 + 70.21 + 50.54 + 66.08 + 78.37 + 72.18 + 71.27 + 72.12]
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Once more provenance will be a serious concern for collectors of this Brilliant box, one to add to their Gilels-Beethoven set, a strong Richter box, their Oistrakh 10 CD collection and indeed their Rostropovich box, newly released. They make formidable claims given their modest price but beyond assigning exclusive licence to Gostelradiofund this Gilels set, ranging as it does so widely, will cause headaches as to any previous incarnations on LP or CD, ones, I have to confess, I’ve not been able satisfactorily to resolve.

That being the case a few words may be in order regarding Gilels’ playing in these majorly live concert and broadcast performances. They range from 1949 to the 1984 Medtner Sonata, though a number – such as the Rachmaninov Preludes - are undated. The sound quality varies equally from constricted and confined to open and clear – there are numerous variations in quality throughout the ten discs and you will seldom be able to relax to a disc uninterrupted by some limitation in quality, albeit that they are frequently of trivial account. For the most part these are very listenable performances and certainly no worse than the Oistrakh concerto performances enshrined in Brilliant’s set devoted to the great violinist. And above all of course there is Gilels and no matter what the duplications, sometimes multiple, may be there is invariably always something of new majesty to his playing, something permanent and imperishable.

There are numerous highlights. The Liszt disc contains two performances of the Sonata, one from 1949, a splendid, powerful traversal in rather occluded and clangy sound and the other from 1965 which is simply cataclysmic in its overpowering dynamism, one of the most predatory and leonine accounts you will ever hear. True the sound is splintery for 1965 but this is an account to rank beside Horowitz’s. Poetic legato fuses with outsize chordal attacks – never hardening into mere forcing of tone – and the oratorical rubati lead to intoxicating and turbo-charged drama. Maybe too much, it’s true, but nevertheless an example of what an incendiary Lisztian Gilels could be. It’s a pity that the Valse oubliée No.1 is in rather crumbly sound because this really glitters.

Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto (Kondrashin 1949) shows some truly remarkable technical equipment and a fair admixture of witty badinage from the pianist. His sweep in the Intermezzo is commanding, his passagework in the finale dynamic without ostentation. One must note the murky sounding orchestral accompaniment which limits pleasure and also the first movement pitch drop at 13.50, which I wish had been corrected. The companion Tchaikovsky shows how acutely Gilels keeps his rhetorical powder dry. He reserves greatest weight not for the opening paragraphs but for later, which makes far more musical and structural sense. It’s a performance that gathers itself in tensile strength and when Gilels unleashes his power the results are uplifting and passionate. Once again this is from 1949 and the sound is muffled.

A French disc sees his Impressionist credentials put to the test. I find his Debussy to be just a touch too emphatic. Compared with Marcelle Meyer’s adroit characterisation or George Copeland’s ease and limpidity Gilels can come across as rather heavy – sample La soirée dans Grenade for instance which lacks Copeland’s snappy rhythms. His Ravel is affectionately done but the Prélude from Le Tombeau de Couperin lacks Gieseking’s lightness and delicacy.

An all-Russian disc sees more Rachmaninov, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky’s Morceaux are delectably done and in adequate sound and the pick of the bunch is his performance of the Theme original et variations. He performs Glazunov’s Second Sonata with elegance and lyric distinction but a great reserve of dynamism as well. His marshalling of the peaks and troughs of the second movement Scherzo is a mini master class in itself though you will, I think, be thrilled by the huge dynamic curve he sculpts in the finale. Neither this nor the Tchaikovsky are dated. The companion Rachmaninov pieces date from 1977 and ones ear is especially drawn to the B flat major Prelude whose middle voicings are so persuasively brought out.

He was a famous Brahmsian, of course, and we have examples here of his way with the Ballades Op.10 and the Op.116 Fantasien. The D minor Ballade has an especial amplitude and gravity and his way with the D minor Capriccio is muscular and commanding, though he’s not helped by a rather strident recording. Her brings requisite lyric urgency to the Intermezzo in A minor. It’s a pleasure to hear his Weber Sonata and to hear how warmly he aerates the aria-like Andante and how adeptly he uses the pedal.

He is on home ground with Prokofiev, some of whose sonatas he appeared to appropriate and "own." He brings tremendous clarity to the Second sonata whilst simultaneously managing to extract a full panoply of tense lyricism. He conjures up pungent sound worlds with immediate strength, as in the same sonata’s finale – brilliant, crisp and clear. His colouration in the Third Sonata ranges from brittle to plangent aria through to pure limpidity. The Eighth was very much a work associated with him and this 1967 performance more than survives scrutiny, ranging from splintery to dolce and back again. The heroic dynamism of the finale generates a frightening intensity.

His Liszt First Concerto (Kondrashin 1949) is in brash sound and the piano is compensatorily too far forward in much the same way that Oistrakh’s contemporary broadcast and commercial recordings were ill balanced. Still, the musical results are mightily impressive and certain aspects of the orchestral sound, such as the triangle, are well caught. He plays the Chopin E minor Concerto (Kondrashin 1962) with a real maestoso command but there are some moments of the most exquisite phrasing in the first movement that will stay long in the memory. His Nocturne Op.48 No.1 is from 1949 and is very slow and intense – rather a Lisztian approach in its subsequent overdrive. He also plays the Second and Third Sonatas splendidly. The Scherzo of the Second is intense and there’s a delicate and limpid middle section to the Funeral March – unexaggerated throughout. The Largo of the Third is its most outstanding feature in this 1977 traversal – sensitively weighted and coloured. His Polonaise is truly terpsichorean, not a word that can always be levelled at others’ playing of it.

The Schumann disc can be a touch uneven. Parts of his Carnaval are decidedly uneven – there’s a deal of rushing and excessive speed and rubati that make this too personalised a reading for general recommendation. Ebullient, I’d say, but too much so. The individual movements should really have been separately tracked as well. The un-bloomy sound can constrain things in the First Sonata – it dates from 1957 – but what can’t be denied is Gilels’ sovereign control of tension, the way he build unerringly to climaxes and then grades the release of the accumulated tensile material. His Aria here is limpid and delicate and he brings superb pedal control and a flowing but not over fast tempo to the Andantino of the Second Sonata.

And so finally to Scriabin and Medtner. The Medtner is the most recently taped but there is some unwelcome spread, though not enough to limit Gilels’ poetic responses. He makes the Scriabin Fourth Sonata into a perfect marriage of inward mysticism and overt romanticism and vests the miniatures of the Op.74 Préludes with the kind of rich but never vulgar characterisation he brought to his Rachmaninov.

A big box then, long on titanic pianism although somewhat short on documentation and notes. For the price asked I think only the most sanguine of Gilels admirers can afford to be without it. The sound can be problematic, the provenance not yet fully established but the performances are, for the most part, magnificent.

Jonathan Woolf




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