. . . a colossal recital . . . [Beethoven]: the opening 1803 "Waldstein Sonata" reveals a virtuoso pianist in smart music. The Gilels sonority in "ostinato" energy, runs, and trills penetrates deeply, and his capacity for liquid velocity seems limitless . . . [Chopin / Variations on "Là ci darem" from Mozart's "Don Giovanni"]: We might concur with Robert Schumann, who, in speaking of Chopin, proclaimed, "Hats off, gentlemen, a Genius!" and so say of Emil Gilels . . . [Prokofiev]: From the 1915-17 group of "Visions fugitives" Gilels proffers six, each vignette in color and dynamics, close to the terse spirit of Scriabin. Nos 1, 3, and 5 each sparkle with an ethereal impressionism. The accented dissonances of No. 11 always attract Gilels, who favors this study in contrary-motion scale patterns. No. 10 provides a jumpy etude marked "Ridicolosamente". The last, "Poetico", conveys an elusive veil of notes. Quite a transition in color and dynamics as we enter Debussy's rarified world, liquefied and sensuous in "Reflets dans l'eau" . . . [in the Siloti arrangement of Bach's b minor Prelude, the] lovely gradations of color and inflection add that sense of eternity of which the great pianists own the patent.
. . . a significant discovery . . . [the recital] shows him at his technical peak, with Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 21 ("Waldstein") unfolding with a wildfire fury but contained within an exterior elegance that ensures details remain beautifully defined . . . [Gilel's performance shows] this bold, expansively warm personality meeting the music on its own terms . . . everywhere, you feel profound power in reserve -- with mesmerizing effect.
His recital in Massey Hall in 1956 was, in my opinion, stupendous . . . For listeners who never had the opportunity to hear Gilels live, this new recording comes close to recreating my experience, and as such, it is self-recommending . . . it is impossible not to be swept up in the excitement of these performances, and we are indebted to DG for making this concert recording available commercially for the first time. The longest piece on the CD is Beethoven's "Waldstein" sonata, and this may well be the most exciting, indeed hair-raising, performance this work has ever had. Gilels takes extremely fast tempi throughout, and it is literally incredible that the final "Prestissimo" could be played not only this fast but this accurately with such speed. That said, one can easily imagine that this is how Beethoven conceived the piece: relentlessly powerful, mercurial -- indeed almost schizophrenic in its sudden changes of mood -- and gripping from beginning to end . . . Gilels is an ideal interpreter of Prokofiev's brief Piano Sonata No. 3 . . .
. . . the first set of Debussy's Images has real backbone and rhythmic focus, and more Prokofiev, a selection of the "Visions Fugitives", become searingly vivid snapshots. The recording is decent enough, and the sense of occasion palpable . . .
. . . [Emil Gilels was] the acme of post-war Soviet piano royalty . . . the recorded sound allows Gilels' energy to come through, whether in Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata or Prokofiev's compact Third Sonata . . . the Russian's way with Prokofiev's "Visions Fugitives" is subtly knowing. There is exciting Ravel and Stravinsky, as well as a signature Gilels encore, the poetic Bach-Siloti B Minor Prelude.
. . . ["The Seattle Recital"] provides a vivid snapshot of his unique, ever-evolving artistry . . . Chopin's "Là ci darem la mano" Variations are both virtuoso and beguiling. Gilels captures the whimsy of the introduction, exploiting its mercurial mood shifts to make arrival at Mozart's duet like stepping into the sunshine. Each of the five variations is imbued with a distinct character, building to a polonaise finale of extraordinary brilliance. It is a perfect showcase for Gilel's justly admired pianistic finesse . . . [in Prokofiev's St Petersburg speed] has a salutary effect, pointing up the Third Sonata's larger shapes and overall structure to fine advantage while rendering the lyricism of more moderate sections all the more poignant . . . The guileless simplicity of "Hommage à Rameau" achieves a touching eloquence . . . [it is a pleasure] revisiting the unique strengths and versatility of this impressive pianist.
. . . his sheer joy at playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd in this recital is everywhere apparent. It's full of good things, opening with the "Waldstein", which has great power and propulsion . . . there's some authoritative Prokofiev . . . and some delightful Debussy and Ravel. I especially like Mouvements, the third and final piece in Book 1 of "Images", which combines power and balletic grace to a remarkable degree. I don't know a better performance on record than this . . . This recital takes us to piano heaven. Don't miss it.
A rare find indeed! Privately but professionally recorded in clear mono sound, appearing from nowhere after more than half a century, this issue of an almost complete recital from 1964 shows Gilels at his absolute peak. Beethoven's "Waldstein" sonata is vigorous and direct . . . Chopin's Mozart variations and Prokofiev's compact third sonata are splendid, while the first book of Debussy's "Images" display almost superhuman focus and command. It is tantalising that what could be a spectacular first ballade of Chopin is sitting on a shelf somewhere.
. . . self-recommending.
. . . [a] remarkable recital . . . [Gilel's performance of Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata] is even greater than his splendid studio version for DG . . . Its lively, energetic mood is presented with a degree of reserve that makes the pianist's power and virtuosity seem all the more staggering. The second movement is appropriately dreamy and pensive, while the finale is a tour de force . . . The prestissimo coda astonishes with its glissando octaves in alternating hands and the extraordinary way in which Gilels, with a single hand, simultaneously plays the melody and its accompanying trill. Chopin's Variations on "La ci darem mano" are delivered with wit and delicacy. Prokofiev's Sonata No 3 is a tectonic plate-shifting eruption, while six of the composer's "Visions fugitives" demonstrate Gilels' ability to create exquisite textures and timbres through precisely weighted chords and imaginative pedalling . . . The encores include two Gilels specialities: a spectacular "Danse russe" from Stravinsky's "Trois movements de Petrouchka"; and an ineffably lovely Bach-Siloti Prelude in B minor.
. . . [ce recital] rend idéalement compte de son immense tempérament, carrure de lion et conteur irrésistible . . . alliant caresse et passion rageuse. C'est un monstre-interprète, virtuose des épisodes contrastés, d'une urgence enivrée quasi vertigineuse à suivre (le développement du motif mozartien chez Chopin, dont l'interprète au clavier fait une nuit fantastique, course effrénée et visions haletantes) . . . [Gilels] impose ici une impétuosité électrique incandescente dont la braise semble véritablement enflammer le clavier . . . "Miroirs" de Ravel ("Alborada del gracioso") envoûte par le même feu liquide très subtilement énoncé, d'une ciselure nerveuse aux scintillements et arrières plans dignes d'un orchestre (phénoménale architecture) . . . l'acuité, l'assise, le feu poétique, la terrifiante agilité du pianiste s'impose à nous, plus de 50 ans après la réalisation du concert de Seattle . . . Un géant assurément du piano au XXème. Réédition légitime. Pour son centenaire, Deutsche Grammophon devait bien souligner l'originalité puissante d'un interprète à bien des égards fascinant. Cet inédit rend hommage à son très grand talent. A écouter absolument.
[Beethoven / "Waldstein" Sonata]: L'autorité qui émane de son jeu, le charisme de sa personne ne sont pas moins palpables à chaque instant, avec par exemple des moments suspendus dans le finale à se damner . . . un bel apercu de son talent protéiforme . . . les Variations sur "La ci darem la mano" de Chopin offrent une superbe lecon de vocalité et de jeu perlé, le pianiste semblant caresser son instrument dans tous les sens pendant quinze minutes . . . Le bouquet virtuose final ("Alborada" et "Danse russe" de "Pétrouchka") nous renvoie une image exaltante des moyens phénoménaux de Guilels au sommet de sa carrière.