Emil Gilels was one of the greatest Russian pianists of the twentieth century, born in Odessa in 1916.
The recordings on this first disc of his early recordings, made in the USSR, come from the first stage of Gilels’s career and include his first known recordings from1935.
Leopold Godowsky’s arrangement of the Gigue by Jean-Baptiste Loeillet immediately shows the immense power the nineteen-year old Gilels had at the keyboard. His playing, especially in his youth, was fiery, volatile and exciting, and even late in his career it still retained grandeur and sweep of a great master in the Russian tradition.
“Gilels had a sense of grandeur tempered by discipline and respect for the text….strong and massive without being harsh…. A fine pianist.” BBC Music Magazine
“Here was a real artist, and a real communicator.” BBC Music Magazine
“…here, in performance after performance, is the sort of playing that made Rubinstein, on hearing the teenage Gilels in Russia, exclaim, "if that boy ever comes to America I might as well pack my bags and retire".” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009
“these are now the transfers of choice for this body of recordings” MusicWeb International
“Here, in performance after performance, is the sort of playing that made Rubinstein, on hearing the teenage Gilels in Russia, exclaim, 'if that boy ever comes to America I might as well pack my bags and retire'. Even in dated sound an 'elemental virtuoso gift' and a 'sonority rich in noble metal' are omnipresent. And whether you hear Gilels in his exquisite Rameau, the thunderous brilliance of his Godowsky or in the way his decorations in Smetana's A minor Polka shimmer like the beating of a hummingbird's wings, you will hear a nonpareil pianism. True, in years to come Gilels would find greater depth than his enviably spruce and immaculately turned Mozart conveys, but even here the playing is of an aristocratic distinction and finesse.
All in all these performances is a reminder of this grandest of musical titans. Ward Marston's transfers come up excellently and special thanks go to Judith Rayner for the loan of discs from her priceless collection.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010