Schumann • Brahms • Chopin
In this 1979 Abbotsholme recital, Emil Gilels features works added to his repertory only in the last decade of his life. The pianist endows these pieces with dignified maturity and a sense of poetry. Gilels’s admirers will certainly know his studio-made DG recordings of these Brahms and Chopin works; while the sound on those commercial releases is much clearer and more focused, the comparatively clotted sonority of the ICA recital nevertheless yields greater resonance and atmosphere. The performances complement those studio accounts by reflecting Gilels’s palpable engagement and desire to communicate with his audience.
Very few pianists perform Schumann’s Klavierstücke, Op. 32, but Gilels champions these pieces as a congenially varied miscellany, although his 1977 Moscow concert performance (Melodiya) is even more masterfully played than the present account. The greatest interest in the present programme comes in the first movement of Chopin’s B minor Sonata: Gilels is one of the few interpreters who manages to highlight the Allegro maestoso tempo, and in the second theme he incorporates an inner voice that oscillates hypnotically between adjacent tones. Mozart’s D minor Fantasy provides a memorable encore.