Emil Gilels (1916-1985) was one of the greatest interpreters of Beethoven during the second half of the twentieth century. One critic noted at the March 1968 concert: 'In a superb piano recital at the Festival Hall yesterday afternoon Emil Gilels achieved a perfect compromise between the classical and romantic in Beethoven, doing so with tone as limpid and beautiful as can ever been heard on this platform.'
Gilels’ performance of Beethoven's 'Waldstein' Sonata from this 1968 concert received the following review: 'The Waldstein Sonata in C, Op.90 was a performance in a thousand, a poised integrated whole yet full of the most exquisitely fashioned, revealing detail.' The rarely heard Twelve Variations in A major was a Russian dance from the ballet Das Waldmächen by Czech composer Paul Wranitzky (1756-1808). It would appear that the first time Gilels played this work was at a recording session in Russia in 1952.
Beethoven's 32 Variations in C minor together with the 12 Variations, were included on Gilel's sixth tour of the United States in October and November 1966. The 32 Variations in C minor was also a work that Giles played from the beginning of his career, first performing it in Tbilisi in November 1936. Gilels, in his element here, caused one reviewer to say that Gilels had brought 'striking new musical light to throw on the over-familiar C minor variations'. The rare Weber Piano Sonata No.2 concluded the 1968 recital which Gilels, by playing it slightly slower, notably in the first movement, brings a great deal of detail to his performance.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, "Waldstein"
I. Allegro con brio
II. Introduzione: Adagio molto
III. Rondo: Allegretto moderato
Ludwig van Beethoven: 12 Variations on a Russian Dance from Wranitzky's Das Waldmadchen, WoO 71
12 Variations on a Russian Dance from Wranitzky's Das Waldmadchen, WoO 71
Ludwig van Beethoven: 32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80
32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80
Carl Maria von Weber: Piano Sonata No. 2 in A flat major, Op. 39, J. 199
I. Allegro moderato con spirito ed assai legato
III. Menuetto capriccioso: Presto assai - Trio
IV. Rondo: Moderato e molto grazioso
“…his Beethoven…is mesmeric in its imperturbable mastery. The Waldstein Sonata in particular is more a calm flow of events rather than a river in full spate, though the prestissimo coda is a glorious virtuoso dash to the finishing line. Both sets of variations are given with a peerless pianistic grace and mastery, and the virtuosity and charm of his Weber A flat Sonata release all of its courtly elegance.”