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emil gilels great pianists of 20th century

Classical CD Review - 22 March 2000
Emil Gilels, Saint-Saens, Harrison Birtwistle

By Joseph E. Romero

Great Pianists of the 20th Century: Emil Gilels I
Bach/Busoni: Prelude and Fugue in D, BWV 532
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, KV 595
Wiener Philharmoniker, Karl Bohm, conductor
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58
Philharmonia Orchestra, Leopold Ludwig, conductor
Bach: French Suite No. 5 in G, BWV 816
Weber: Piano Sonato No. 2 in A flat, Op. 39
Debussy: Images (Book 1) > Ravel: Jeux d'eau; Toccata (from "Le tombeau de Couperin")
Alborada del gracioso (from "Miroirs")
Philips 2CDs 456 793-2

Great Pianists of the 20th Century: Emil Gilels II
Stravinsky: 3 Movements from Petrouchka
Medtner: Sonata reminiscenza in A minor, Op. 38 No 1
Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat, Op. 84; Visions fugitives, Op 22 (excerpts); Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28; March from "The Love for Three Oranges", Op. 33ter
Liszt/Busoni: Fantasia on 2 themes from "Le nozze de Figaro"
Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 "Carnival at Pest"; Valse oubliee No. 1 in F sharp. Spanish Rhapsody
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G, Op. 44
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Lorin Maazel
Bach/Siloti: Prelude in B minor

Emil Gilels (1916 - 1985) rarely leaves his listeners indifferent. Some dislike his playing intensely, others are captivated by the immediacy and conviction of the robust pianism of his early years. Whatever the reaction, this is playing of enormous presence and the Odessa-born musician's full-bodied tone production always commands absolute attention.

While these two compilations, spanning a 40-year period, offer a broad overview of Gilel's repertoire and are highly recommended, Volume II is especially useful for those still hesitant in their choice of interpreters for important modern works such as Prokofiev's Sonatas No. 3 and No. 8. Prokofiev dedicated his Eighth Piano Sonata to Emil Gilels and this 1974 recording is undoubtedly the best. The same could be said of the excerpts from Visions fugitives, also recorded in 1974. Finally, this introductory portrait remains incomplete without Gilels' interpretation of Grieg's Lyric Pieces reissued on Deutsche Grammophon.

mischa maisky

Camille Saint-Saens (1835 - 1921) Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra No.1 in A minor, Op. 33; Le Carnival des animaux: No. 13. Le Cygne; Allegro appassionato Op. 43;
Romance in F major, Op. 36; Suite Op. 16 (Version for Violoncello and Orchestra);
Sonata for Violoncello and Piano No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 32
Mischa Maisky, violoncello
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Daria Hovora, piano

A striking and, at times, beautiful recording of music that now requires the best musicians. Mr Maisky and Orpheus play the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto and Allegro appassionato with intelligence and verve - admirably detailed in their attention to accent and rhythm, rather than the traditional focus on lyrical beauty. They are also suitably moving in Le Cygne. But the bittersweet charm that the musicians elicit from the little serenade in the Suite, op. 16 is alone worth the price of the disc.

Harrison Birtwistle (b. 1934) : Earth Dances
The Cleveland Orchestra
Christoph von Dohnanyi, conductor
John Harle, saxophone
Paul Clarvis, drum kit
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Davis
Argo 452 104-2

Earth Dances, the constructivist work of a skilled craftsman, captures in vivid musical images the sounds of shifting geological plates by the permanent collision of large instrumental groups. The effect is riveting. Written for maximum orchestral force supplemented by a spectacular collection of marimbas, gongs, bongos, chimes, and more, Earth Dances combines dramatic sonorites, powerful rythms and ancient ritual. The piece may indeed be dedicated to French composer Pierre Boulez, but it mainly seems to reflect Boulez's idea of pitch, and not so much form, sound, or pulse.

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