Mozart, Rondo, Brahms, Debussy, Stravinsky

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Debussy,Mozart,Rondo,Stravinsky
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Emil Gilels
WORKS: Piano Sonata in F, K533; Rondo, K494; Fantasies, Op. 116; Images, Book 1; Three Movements from Petrushka
PERFORMER: Emil Gilels (piano)
With Sviatoslav Richter, Gilels was the leading Soviet pianist of his time. He played in the West long before Richter, but his appearances were still quite rare, though he visited the Salzburg Festival several times between 1969 and 1980, and gave this recital there in 1972. It is remarkably well recorded, but what it might have felt like live is imponderable. The applause is hardly hysterical but it does warm up. In Mozart’s last F major Sonata, Gilels is immaculate and a bit inscrutable, though the refined differentiation of his touch saves the performance from becoming boring. Wrong notes in the more vigorous Brahms pieces might have passed unnoticed in the excitement of the occasion, and the quiet second piece is really beautiful – as pure as spring water. Gilels had a sense of grandeur tempered by discipline and respect for the text. The Debussy pieces are quite properly conceived in big terms, not precious but not insensitive. And Petrushka is strong and massive without being harsh. Again, the wrong notes seem like excusable slips in the heat of the moment. A rounded portrait of a fine pianist. Adrian Jack