It is not too much to say that Emil Gilels' recording of Brahms' Piano Concerto in B flat major with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony from February 8, 1958, was a revelation. With revolutions and invasions and hot wars and cold wars, very few Soviet pianists had traveled to America in decades and no one at the time knew what a truly great Soviet pianist might sound like. Gilels changed all of that. His tour of America and his recording of the Brahms Concerto showed exactly what a truly great Soviet pianist sounded like. As proven by this recording, a truly great Soviet pianist had tremendous technique, an enormous tone, a strong but sensitive touch, and a powerful but soulful conception of the music. With the firm but flexible support of Reiner and the Chicago, Gilels creates a performance of Brahms' Concerto in B flat that is massive and delicate, dramatic and expressive, stern but playful and everywhere deeply musical. And with the deeply soulful playing of cellist Janos Starker in the Andante, Gilels and Reiner and the Chicago and Starker may have created the most touching Andante ever recorded. BMG/JVC's remastered sound is as close to a real aural image of a real pianist with a real orchestra in a real hall in real time as has ever been recorded.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83|