Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op.15 (1795) [34:57]
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37 (1803) [35:21]
Emil Gilels (piano)
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Adrian Boult
rec. July 1967, Royal Festival Hall, London
ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5000 [70:26]

Russian soloists seemed to form a strong bond with Adrian Boult. Rostropovich’s best studio Dvorák concerto performance was given with the veteran British conductor. And anyone who has seen David Oistrakh’s filmed performance of the Beethoven concerto with Boult will appreciate the solidity of the professional rapport between them. The rapport extended to pianist Emil Gilels, whose July 1967 performances of these two Beethoven concertos simply reinforces the virtues of their collaboration, and also adds to the known discography. Boult had made a famous wartime 78 set of the C minor with Solomon. Gilels recorded the cycle in Cleveland with that beacon of bonhomie, gimlet eyed George Szell. He also recorded the C minor with Cluytens, and taped the Fourth and Fifth with Leopold Ludwig.

Boult proves his sagacious self. There may be the merest hint of unease orchestrally in the C major, but things very quickly settle down to a lucid exposition. The playing is excellent, even droll in places. Gilels sweeps into the first movement cadenza – the more concise of the two is played. The slow movement is highly expressive, whilst the finale is vital and engaging, with ensemble at its tightest.

In the C minor Gilels can be trenchant, almost gruff in places, but he is also precise in articulation, with fine, even trills. He reserves poetry of a direct kind for the slow movement where the winds’ phraseology is admirable, and fine spirits are released in the finale, but are ever subject to the firmest of rhythmic control. The triumph of the playing is an index of Gilels own priorities, and strongly to be admired. My own taste is rather more for the kind of thing that the then Stephen Bishop Kovacevich and Colin Davis conjured up at a few years later in their commercial recording – but there’s no denying the results of the Gilels-Boult collaboration, which is hugely and effectively realised on its own terms.

There is some high end hiss here but it’s not disturbing. The tapes come from the BBC and have been licensed to ICA Classics.

Jonathan Woolf

Real rapport between Gilels and Boult.