BRAHMS: Variations on a theme by Paganini, Op 35 (Book I).
Seven Fantasies, Op. 116. SCHUMANN: Four Piano pieces, Op. 32. Symphonic
Etudes, Op. 13.
MENDELSSOHN: Songs Without Words, Op. 38 No. 6 "Duetto." Etude
in A minor, Op 104b.
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K. 597. (two performances).
Concerto in E flat for Two Pianos, K. 365.
BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 12 in A flat, Op. 26. PROKOFIEV: Sonata
No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28. Excerpts from Visions Fugitives, Op. 22.
Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 12. RACHMANINOFF: Daisies, Op. 38 No. 3. Prelude
in C-sharp minor, Op. 3 No. 2. Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 1 (arr. Richardson).
Preludes, Opl. 23 Nos. 2, 5 and 10. Prelude, Op. 32 No. 11. SCRIABIN:
Etude in C-sharp minor, Op. 2 No. 1. BACH-SILOTI: Prelude in B minor.
Emil Gilels (1916-1985), one of the greatest pianists of the century, can be seen on these three splendid VAI issues, all photographed in color and recorded in monophonic sound. Two of these date from 1983, two years before the pianist's untimely death. Sviatoslav Richter feels this was caused by an incompetent doctor giving a wrong injection during a routine checkup, a tragic loss to the musical world: Gilels was only 68. All of these videos were recorded during concerts in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Earliest is the solo recital from 1978 that opens with a Beethoven sonata and thereafter focuses on Russian repertory so often associated with Gilels, Prokofiev (who dedicated his Sonata No. 8 to the pianist) and Rachmaninoff. This concert ends with two encores guaranteed to calm down an audience, the subdued Scriabin Etude and Siloti arrangement of a Bach Prelude. The solo concert from five years later (no specific dates are given) surprisingly contains not one note of Russian music, not even in the encores (two short pieces by Mendelssohn). However we do have Brahms, the first book of Paganini Variations and Op. 116 Fantasies, and Schumann, the Symphonic Etudes and Op. 32 piano pieces. Gilels was known for his Brahms. In 1958 one of his first American recordings was the Concerto No. 2 with Reiner and the Chicago Symphony for RCA. In 1972 he recorded both concertos with Eugen Jochum and the Berlin Philharmonic, performances among the finest ever recorded, still available on DGG (coupled with the Op. 116 solo works).
The third DVD features another specialty of Gilels, Mozart's Concerto No. 27 in two performances, one from 1979, the other 1983. Gilels' playing is perfection, and it is unfortunate the Russian orchestra isn't up to the pianist's standard—equally unfortunate that the conductor is Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov instead of Karl Böhm who conducted the Gilels 1974 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic. Gilels' daughter Elena often played this concerto with her father, and recorded it with him during the 1974 Vienna sessions. Ovchinnikov is best known as a composer of film music, and there's no explanation of why he was chosen to conduct these concerts.
R.E.B. (July 2008)