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The Russian pianist Emil Gilels (1916–1985) was born in Odessa. After completing his studies with Heinrich Neuhaus in 1937, he was awarded first prize at the 1938 Ysaÿe International Festival in Brussels. After the war, he toured the Soviet Bloc countries of Eastern Europe as a soloist. He was one of the first Soviet artists, along with David Oistrakh, allowed to travel and concertise in the West.
His US debut in 1955, playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1, was a triumph. His UK debut in 1959 was met with similar acclaim while his Salzburg Festival debut came in 1969. Emil Gilels is regarded by many as one of the most significant pianists of the twentieth century and is universally admired for his superb technical control and burnished tone. His interpretations of the central German-Austrian classics formed the core of his repertoire, in particular Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann as well as twentieth-century music like Debussy, Bartók and Prokofiev.
Gilels made two commercial recordings of the Brahms Piano Concerto No.2 in the studio with Fritz Reiner and Eugen Jochum.
The live magisterial performance of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.2 dates from 1971when Gilels was at his peak, prior to his studio performance with Jochum.
The live recital dates from 1974 and features vibrant performances of Debussy and Prokofiev, all particular favourites of the pianist. Recorded in brilliant stereo, these WDR-sourced performances have never been released before.
Previous live recordings of Gilels on ICA Classics have been Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3 (ICAC5000) and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 & Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2 (ICAC5032) – both CDs have met with outstanding reviews.
Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83
I. Allegro non troppo
II. Allegro appassionato
IV. Allegretto grazioso
Claude Debussy: Images, Book 1
No. 1. Reflets dans l'eau
No. 2. Hommage a Rameau
No. 3. Mouvement
Sergey Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28
Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28
Sergey Prokofiev: Visions fugitives, Op. 22
V. Molto giocoso
XI. Con vivacita
“The characteristics of the [Brahms] performance are nobility and breadth...Despite the existence of the Jochum, this Rossi-conducted performance is still a worthwhile acquisition for Gilels admirers.”