With a style recalling the grandeur and fieriness of Anton Rubenstein’s, Emil Gilels – born in the southern Ukrainian seaport of Odessa on 19 October 1916 – ranks among the foremost musicians of all time.The maestro was especially renowned for his wide-ranging repertoire, and in this excellent release listeners can enjoy a selection of works based on one particular area of his extensive library – great Russian masters of the piano repertoire. Gilels begins his recital with a disc entirely devoted to Prokofiev. Having detailed the composer’s First,Third and Eighth Sonatas as well as the famous set of miniatures known as Vision fugitives, he then moves on to a series of compositions that trace the compositional career of Scriabin – one of Russia’s most individual figures.
From the accessible nature of the Third Sonata to the Fourth’s departure from strict tonality and form, Gilels contrasts the work of an artist inspired by mysticism against that of a much lesser-known figure – Medtner – before turning to an early suite by Tchaikovsky. Here, in CD3, we are also introduced to the work of Glazunov, whose appealing Piano Sonata No.2 in E minor is complemented by some of Rachmaninov’s best-known works and transcriptions. Spanning over three decades of recording and featuring some of Gilels’ favourite works to perform, this comprehensive set offers a fascinating glimpse into a musician who was just as comfortable playing Bach as he was interpreting the modern masters of the keyboard. Full of refined yet powerful performances, it is a valuable addition to Brilliant Classics’ celebrated Russian Archives set.
“A towering giant of unsurpassed delicacy and grace, Gilels was consummate both in technique and interpretative insight. His range and tonal palette are staggering, uniting authority with spontaneity.”
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