Beethoven Bach, Brahms, Debussy, Grieg, Schumann & Mozart

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven Bach,Brahms,Debussy,Grieg,Schumann & Mozart
LABELS: Andante
ALBUM TITLE: Walter Gieseking
WORKS: Waldstein Sonata; Sonata Op. 101; C major Sonata, K545
PERFORMER: Walter Gieseking
CATALOGUE NO: AN 2090
This set avoids the best-known aspects of Gieseking’s recorded legacy, with almost none of his famed Debussy, only a smattering of his Mozart and no Ravel. Instead there’s six concertos, including live, off-air accounts of Rachmaninov’s Second and Third (which Gieseking didn’t record commercially), as well as Beethoven’s First and Fifth, the Grieg and the Schumann. The solo items include Beethoven’s Waldstein and Op. 101 sonatas, Bach’s Fifth Partita and a selection of late Brahms. This isn’t a balanced overview of Gieseking’s artistry, but it does fascinatingly complement his more familiar recordings already widely available.

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Gieseking’s Beethoven is full of his customary elegance and subtle gradations of colour and dynamics, and these features takes precedence over the music’s gravitas. His Waldstein, for example, displays dazzling bravura with some wonderful pianissimo articulation, yet some will miss an underlying tension and dramatic power. The Grieg Concerto seems to find him unusually detached, and his bracing rendition lacks lyrical warmth and pianistic finish; but his Schumann (with Furtwängler, 1942) has a far greater urgency and expressive range. The Rachmaninov concertos are curiosities, the Second faring far better (in both performance and sound) than the Third. The solo Bach has pinpoint control, with almost no sustaining pedal, but sounds just a little didactic, as does Gieseking’s cool approach to Mozart’s C major Sonata, K545. The finest of the solo repertoire is the Debussy Rêverie and the wonderfully atmospheric late Brahms.

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In sum, this is a mixed bag, and the sonic limitations of the source material will be a real issue. Tim Parry