WORKS: Piano Sonata in A, Op. 2/2; Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 110; Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 111
PERFORMER: Friedrich Gulda (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: C 591 021 B ADD mono
Friedrich Gulda was nothing if not an eccentric musician, and he was just as likely to regale his listeners with jazz improvisations as with the Bach or Beethoven they had come to hear. This 1964 Salzburg Festival recital, recorded in acceptable if unflattering mono sound, finds him on best behaviour (though some may be offended by his obvious aversion to exposition repeats) and on fine pianistic form.
Gulda’s austere view of the graceful rondo finale from the early A major Sonata may not be to everyone’s taste, but the minuet-like middle movement of the Moonlight is as affectionate as one could imagine. The lyrical opening movement of Op. 110 is beautifully handled, too; and its scherzo, taken at breakneck speed, is admirably clean. The remainder of the Sonata consists of tragic arioso alternating with a fugue, and Beethoven’s notation, where one gives way to the other, implies that the two are united by a common pulse. Gulda maintains that pulse much more strictly than most pianists – admirable from an architectural point of view, perhaps, but almost inevitably the character of the individual sections is compromised, with the arioso too fast to plumb the music’s emotional depths.
The valedictory finale of Op. 111 finds Gulda sounding very much at home in the ‘jazzy’ third variation, though he doesn’t always convey the required sense of floating serenity elsewhere. (For a feeling of infinite calm, try Brendel or Solomon.) By the end, the piano may be in bad shape, but we have witnessed a recital of rare distinction. Misha Donat