has an ‘early years’ Gilels disc to its credit - see review
that takes in a selection of recordings made between 1935
and 1955. There is some overlap but the substantial works
are not duplicated which means that the Mozart sonata K457
is on this Naxos entrant whereas APR has two big sonata
statements in the form of Beethoven’s Op.2 No. 3 and Prokofiev’s
Sonata No.2 in D minor. Non-specialists who wish to acquire
examples of Gilels’s earliest 1935 recordings will therefore
be faced with a dilemma with regard to the Loeillet-Godowsky
and all the three Schumanns. I can help with recommendations.
The APR preserves and attempts to ameliorate as far as
is possible the hollow and disappointing Moscow recording
but can’t do much with it. The Naxos can. It sounds very,
very much better – clarity, definition (you can hear the
bass definition at long last) and what sounds like comprehensive
re-pitching ensure that these are now the transfers of
choice for this body of recordings,
Loeillet-Godowsky is a charming sliver of elemental pianism,
dispatched with bravura confidence and control. Its companion,
the Schumann-Tausig Der Kontrabandiste
vital and engrossing a performance. The Toccata was made
in the same year, a reading of headlong dynamism and speed.
The performance is not flattered by the sonics but that’s
no impediment to the coruscating virtuosity of the playing.
For my taste it’s a rather unrelenting and steamrollering
performance that misses the playfulness at the music’s
core but there’s no doubting the digital mastery on show.
better is the Mozart sonata. Even though on his own admission
he played relatively little Mozart in his early days -
Neuhaus, his teacher, didn’t push the composer – this is
a warmly aerated and textured, fully romanticised reading.
His second movement rubati are especially noteworthy as
is Gilels’s thoroughly masculine sense of the sonata’s
Mendelssohn brace offers a light-fingered Scherzo and a
warmly consoling Song without Words. The Rameau is fashioned
with verdantly romantic generosity whilst the Smetana dances
were a souvenir of his encounter with them on a recent
concert tour of Czechoslovakia. Unlike Mozart Neuhaus did
teach Debussy. There’s an example of Clair de lune
– auspicious – and
English pianist Leonard Borwick’s manful arrangement of Fêtes
solo piano. This was a piece that Gilels was playing in
concert frequently around 1937, the time of the recording.
The three movements from Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin
the Gallic affiliations – though these, incomplete though
the recording was, followed later in 1950.
are good notes as usual from Jonathan Summers. The repertoire
selection is equally good and the superior transfers ensure
a warm welcome.