Emil Gilels, Volume 1; Great Artists in Moscow Conservatoire
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No.1 in B flat major BWV 825 [10:52]
Well Tempered Clavier; Prelude No.10 in E minor BWV855 arr in B minor by Alexander Soloti [2:39]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata in C minor K457 [17:04]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in C minor Op.48 No.1 [5:20]
Impromptu No.2 in F sharp major Op.36 [5:22]
Etude in G flat major Op.25 No.9 [0:51]
Etude in A flat major Op. posth [2:03]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata in B minor L449 [3:35]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Bagatelle in E flat major Op.33 No.1 [3:18]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Three Fantasies (Caprices) Op.16; No.2 Scherzo in E minor [2:22]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Visions fugitives Op.22 Nos. 3, 5, 11, 10, 17 [4:06]
Toccata in C major Op.11 [5:00]
Emil Gilels (piano)
Rec. 29 November 1950 (Bach Partita, Mozart, Prokofiev), 18 January 1953 (Chopin Etudes), 1949 (Chopin Nocturne, Impromptu), 25 March 1952 (Beethoven), 5 January 1952 (Mendelssohn), ‘1950s’ (Bach Prelude, Scarlatti) live in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire

Emil Gilels, Volume 2; Great Artists in Moscow Conservatoire
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Fantasies Op.116; Nos, 1-3, 5-7 [16:36]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Impromptu in A flat major Op.29 [4:27]
Mazurkas; in F major Op.68 No.3 [1:37]: in A minor Op.7 No.2 [4:07]: in C major Op,24 No.2 [2:13]
Ballade No,1 in G minor Op.23 [9:12]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Andantino varié in B minor Op.84 No.1 from Divertissement D.823, for piano, four hands [10:21] 1
Piano Sonata (‘Grande Sonate’) in B flat major D.617, for piano, four hands [21:39] 1
Six Ecossaises from Op.18a D.145 [2:00] 1
Emil Gilels (piano)
Elena Gilels (piano) 1
rec. 12 February 1972, Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire except four hand piano works, rec. 20 January 1984, Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire

These two discs contain claimed ‘previously unreleased recordings’. Such is the state of live Gilels - and indeed Richter - material from venues such as the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire that it takes an exhaustive and exhausting look through the on-line discographies to find out if this is really so. I can’t claim to have any definitive answers but it seems to be the case. The dates covered range widely. In the first disc under review we have recitals from February 1972 and January 1984, whilst the second disc contains a wider range of material dating back to 1949 and then staying in the early 1950s from a series of recitals.

The Brahms Fantasies Op.116 are muscular but lyric; in outline they sound very similar to the sequence - it’s not an identical sequence however - contained in the Brilliant box set devoted to Gilels (see review). This other sequence on Brilliant appears to be from considerably earlier than the 1972 live performance under discussion - March 1965 to be exact. His performance is consistent, involving and deeply impressive. He once said that when he played the Op.116 set he did so ‘as if in a trance’. The Chopin performances all derive from the same concert in which Gilels essays the Fantasies. He plays the A flat Impromptu, three Mazurkas, and the First Ballade - which he plays quite fast and loose. The Schubert items are from January 1984 with Elena, his daughter, and were recorded in the Small Hall of the conservatoire. The D.617 Sonata is the major work and the four-hand team proves exceptionally rewarding; it reminds one perhaps, in a rather more leisurely way, of the great duo recordings Gilels made with Yakov Zak which have been restored of late by APR (see review). Nothing so scintillating happens here but the repertoire is different and so are the times; Gilels had a year left to live and for all her charm Elena was not Zak.

The companion disc opens with a bold, muscular and often assertive Bach Partita from 1950. The Menuets are attractively played but he can be over-beefy in the Allemande. The Mozart Sonata is equally masculine - no concessions to anything dainty here - and this concert is also represented by the selection from Prokofiev Visions fugitives and the Toccata - which are, for me, the real highlights, valuable though it is to hear the Bach and Mozart. The Chopin Nocturne is in poorer sound and its rather distant perspective is made worse by audience coughing and shuffling. The Impromptu is equally noisy. Isn’t this performance, though, also on the Brilliant set noted above? It sounds like it to me. Fortunately the two Etudes from 1953 are in much better sound; so too the lovely performance of the Bach-Siloti (shame about a patch of tape wow) and the pert Scarlatti sonata.

The second disc certainly contains a ration of tape distortion and sound problems though I daresay that will not prove too troublesome to diehard adherents, or indeed to other sympathetic auditors. The notes are in Russian and English and are reasonable.

Jonathan Woolf

These two discs contain claimed ‘previously unreleased recordings’ and that seems to be the case.