Emil Gilels

Emil Gilels: Early Recordings

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Freckled and red haired? Emil Gilels, the Soviet titan of the keyboard, was freckled and red haired? Yes, but only in his youth: by the time he attained his maturity, most of Gilels' freckles had faded. But while the red hair and the fiery temperament that went with it stayed with Gilels even in his more poised and balanced later years, his fire was at its hottest when he was younger. This is manifestly and magnificently obvious in these recordings from the '30s through '50s. From his breathtakingly brilliant 1935 recording of Schumann's Toccata to his awe-inspiringly passionate 1947 recording of Chopin's G minor Ballade and his jaw-droppingly convincing 1952 recording of Medtner's G minor Sonata, Gilels' super-virtuoso performances are almost unbearably thrilling. Tempering this excitement, however, are hints of the poised Gilels to come in his exquisitely controlled 1951 recording of Rameau's Le Rappel des oiseaux, his brightly colored 1955 recording of five Scarlatti sonatas, and especially his masterful 1952 recording of Beethoven's Sonata in C major, Op. 2/3. Taken altogether, this collection will be a must for Gilels collectors that also will be enjoyable to anyone who reveres great piano playing. Considering when and where these recordings were made, the sound is, except for some cracking in the climaxes, incredibly clean.

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