The fifth volume
of Doremi’s Gilels Legacy here reaches volume five and
a momentous one it is. It enshrines the pianist’s first recital
in the West – Doremi capitalises this like a sports event on
the cover of its booklet. That’s not unfair in the circumstances
as it was given in Florence in June 1951 and this of course
was four years before his American debut, which followed in
Gilels had recorded
some Mozart violin sonatas for Melodiya with his highly talented
sister Elizaveta and his performance of the C minor sonata rather
puts me in mind of those staunchly romantic but nevertheless
compelling traversals. The playing is expressive and sometimes
inclined to be a little over-robust. This lends greater delicacy
and legato-spun beauty to the slow movement which is voiced
with great beauty and tonal variety though maybe at the slight
expense of some mobility.
offers a graphic example of Gilels’s intensity in recital.
Plenty here, in the first movement in particular, is visceral
and full of abrupt theatre. You can even hear some noises from
outside the hall, despite the incendiary momentum of the playing
which is scintillating in its dynamism. The central slow movement
has a noble seriousness but the finale is the thing; here Gilels
rides roughshod over the ma non troppo indication brooking
no modification of the Allegro. The resultant speed is
breathtaking in its precision and incisiveness but breathless
in phrasing and rather unsatisfactory as a reading given the
context of his performance as a whole. But undeniably exciting.
Prokofiev’s D minor
Op.14 sonata is dispatched with a wide patina of colour and
emotive responses – it’s an all-embracing and protean performance
that meets the sonata head-on. Islamey is subject to
virtuoso handling though Gilels here doesn’t elevate speed to
a cardinal virtue, thankfully. The Rachmaninoff Moment Musical
must have been a warm and effective encore. Then we have the
two Albéniz pieces that derive from Moscow recitals given in
1954 and 1957. They are freighted with rhythmic verve and bring
the total playing time up to nearly capacity.
There are two small
paragraphs about Gilels in the brief booklet; otherwise it’s
given over to detailing items in this and other Doremi series.
The sound is good for the vintage, the performances charismatic
and personal. There’s not necessarily a frisson or history-in-the-making
feel about the recital – that would be going too far – but it
does offer an uncommonly exciting slice of Gilels’ music-making.