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Elizaveta Gilels (violin)
Jean Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)

Seconde Livre de pièces de clavecin No.4 Le Rappel des Oiseaux arranged Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931) [3:37]
Seconde Livre de pièces de clavecin No.7 Le Tambourin arranged Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931) [4:18]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Sicilienne et Rigaudon in the style of Francoeur [5:46]
Galina BACEWICZ (1913-1969)

Mazurka – Oberek [1:34]
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)

Jota aragonesa arranged Samuel Dushkin [3:17]
Ottakar NOVAČEK (1866-1900)

Perpetuum mobile – Concert Caprice Op.5 No. 4 [2:36]
Ferdinand RIES (1846-1932)

La Capricciosa [3:53]
Grigoras DINICU (1889-1949)

Hora Staccato (1906) arranged Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987)
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)

Canonic Sonata No.1 for two violins in G major [3:57]
Jean Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764)

Sonata Op.1 No.1 for two violins in G major [7:34]
Sonata Op.1 No.3 for two violins in C major [11:31]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)

Sonata for two violins in A minor (c.1914) [21:39]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)

Violin Sonata in A major RV 31 [7:49]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Violin Sonata No.8 in C major K296 (1778) [20:41]
Violin Sonata No.17 in A major (1787) [27:11]
César CUI (1835-1918)

Violin Sonata in D major Op.84 (c.1860-70) [15:55]
Elizaveta Gilels (violin)
Emil Gilels (piano): Vivaldi, Mozart, Cui, 1950-51
Lev Epstein (piano): Rameau, Kreisler, Bacewicz, 1940-63
Abram Makarov (piano): Novaček, Ries, Dinicu, 1948

Leonid Kogan (violin): Telemann, Leclair, Ysaÿe, 1963
rec. Moscow 1940-63
MELODIYA MEL CD 10 01116 [68:25 + 69:37]


History has now consigned Elizaveta Gilels – ‘Elizabeth Gilels’ in the West - to a dual role, neither of them directly to do with her violin playing: wife of Leonid Kogan and/or sister of Emil Gilels. Born in 1919 she’d formed a youthful duo with her brother before taking a prize at the Ysaÿe competition in Brussels in 1937 – that famous constellation of talents. Ahead of her were Oistrakh and the winner, Neveu. Her teacher was Yampolsky. It wasn’t until after the War that she formed her duo with Kogan – their Bach Double Concerto was famous – and they managed to find and perform some more out-of-the-way pieces, as well as works dedicated to them such as the Weinberg sonata. But it’s symptomatic of the weight of historical judgement that the Melodiya booklet devotes nearly a page out of four to a long and telling unidentified quotation extolling Kogan’s playing. Of Elizaveta’s playing there is unfortunately no such critical analysis beyond the observations of her duo performances with her husband.

Fortunately we have evidence throughout this slim-line double disc that goes some way to establishing her position. Certainly when one considers how a lesser talent such as Galina Barinova, nine years Gilels’s senior, could have flourished in the Soviet Union it does make it all the more surprising that Gilels’s career was largely subsumed or subordinated to that of her husband (see a review of Barinova’s Melodiya disc here).

The genre pieces offer an entrée into her playing. Her Hora staccato is less glamorous and fiery than that of the master, Heifetz, whose 1937 disc remains a beacon. She goes in for less dynamic variance than he does and doesn’t play the pizzicato at the end. Still it’s a splendid performance. Her Kreisler is quite slow but has electric trills and sleek portamenti but she lacks the sense of authority and relaxation that marks out a master of this genre – Shumsky perhaps, who has it in spades. The Moscow studio in which she recorded the Rameau-Ysaÿe was very cold and dead-sounding and doesn’t flatter her tonally. The aggressive shrillness that sometimes becomes part of her armoury is most likely an aural product of the studio; the playing itself is highly accomplished. The rest of the first disc is devoted to the duo recordings with Kogan. Their matching of tones and vibrato, much less colour and technical address is powerful indeed – surely some of the best duo playing of its kind on disc. The diminuendi in the Allegro finale of Leclair’s G major sonata are stunning. The hints of tone blanche in the sliver of an Adagio of the C major point to their cultivation of colour. The c.1914 Ysaÿe sonata is enlivened by splendidly pointed fugal passages and by a bucolic-folkloric finale. The two violinists play this with superb élan and sweep.

Oddly the Vivaldi, Mozart and Cui sonatas are absent from Creighton’s Discopaedia of the Violin. But I’m certain that they, or some of them, have appeared before on Multisonic 310235-2. They date from 1950-51 according to Melodiya’s admittedly sparse documentation. Beware the track-listing in the booklet though – there are thirteen not twelve and track four has been repeated in the text - but the actual disc running order is fine. The Vivaldi is buoyant and clean, naturally rather Old School in orientation but without any ill-considered portamenti. The Mozart sonatas are robust with highly expressive slow movements that remain the heartbeat of these performances. The recordings are again rather cold so both players have to work hard to evoke colour. I was taken most by the brisk and eager youthfulness of the finale of K547. The Cui is a seldom-performed sonata. It’s ripely romantic full of rich double-stopping and sounding what we may think of as rather Brahmsian. The slow movement is played with discreet melancholy by both brother and sister.

It’s a pity that these sessions weren’t more precisely documented and that a properly researched note on Gilels wasn’t prepared. I’d say the latter is a distinctly missed opportunity given the specialist nature of the enterprise. But in Melodiya’s defence we would all surely have this material released than mouldering in the archive. Collectors will know that the duo sonatas with Kogan have been re-released on Testament 1227 with other works played exclusively by Kogan.

Jonathan Woolf


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