Customer Review

12 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful performances, but maybe a little sterile!, 28 Oct. 2003
This review is from: Beethoven: Piano Sonatas / Eroica Variations / Elector Sonata (Audio CD)
I'd really like to love these performances, Gilels is one of my favourite pianists, his Brahms 2 with Fritz Reiner is fantastic and I've got quite a few other recordings by him. But his Beethoven always seems to be a bit of a let down. His concerto cycle with Szell lacks the fire of say Richter, but it also lacks the beauty Leon Fleisher achieved with the same conductor. Even with his live performance with Szell on orfeo (a fantastic disc with Szell in electrifying mood) of concerto 3 (and more), he seems too occupied with the right notes. That's my main reservation with this set, you can almost hear the effort that he's putting into these readings, the sound is perfect and no note is out of place. But, and let's be fair, who am I to pass judgement on such an artist, that's not what Beethoven is really about, is it?. Give me Richter in a live performance on an out of tune piano anyday, and let me feel the elemental force of Beethoven, albeit twisted and pulled about a bit by that master of the keyboard. You'll of course have to collect Richter performances on various labels and you'll have to make do with a lot less than the 'just short of a complete set' offered here and you'll need to buy more than 9 disc's, but with Richter, if he has nothing to say he doesn't talk. With Gilels, here, I sometimes got the impression that, ironically, the completeness of the venture was more important, some of the sonatas are just too untouched. It's difficult recommending a complete set of the Beethoven sonatas and it's difficult (and expensive) amassing them any other way, but maybe, when Gilels died before he could complete this set, somebody was trying to tell us something. Richter on Praga, live, 4 disc's, 10 sonatas plus the Op120 variations, warts and all, are as complete performances as you are ever likely to get.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Dec 2009 18:25:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Dec 2009 18:31:09 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
What an incredibly crass and unpleasant insinuation to make: essentially that it was a good thing Gilels died before he could finish his survey of Beethoven sonatas. Nobody elsewhere has ever made the suggestion about these performances that they are "sterile", nor has anyone ever expressed a kind of glee or satisfaction that they remained incomplete. Who are you indeed "to pass judgement on such an artist"? Thank goodness that enough readers on Amazon have the sense to give your review "unhelpful" votes, so that prospective purchasers should not be deterred by your insensitive and misleading comments.

Posted on 13 Dec 2009 00:35:32 GMT
[Deleted by Amazon on 4 May 2010 08:51:23 BDT]

Posted on 18 Dec 2009 12:12:26 GMT
[Deleted by Amazon on 4 May 2010 08:52:16 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Feb 2010 14:37:26 GMT
The review simply lacks understanding of the value of these recordings, and Ralph seems to be missing the point of Gilels's artistry too. There's no point getting angry about this; maybe in time these two listeners will come to realise the value of these recordings, and will give up their naive assumption that if a pianist plays wrong notes he is fiery and that if he is accurate he is pedantic.

Gilels's death in an unnecessary hospital accident in 1985 (during a routine appointment) deprived us of the completion of this DG set (Arrau also died in a hospital accident, in 1991, leaving his second Beethoven sonata cycle incomplete, lacking the Moonlight and the Hammerklavier). These Gilels interpretations are startling to anyone who is listening attentively; his interpretation of the details in the printed score is often much more strongly characterised than one hears from so-called Beethoven 'specialists' who gloss over Beethoven's details - and there's nothing pedantic about taking notice of what a composer says he wants.

I urge all listeners who have been left cold by this set to give it a second chance. Certainly, if you're a professional pianist, you'll be impressed by Gilels's hair-raising ability to offer a refined performance of Op. 101, a work which most pianists struggle through by offering a 'fiery' reading which is really just a smokescreen to disguise their technical problems (Brendel says that Op. 101 is in some ways more difficult than Op. 106, and anyone who has played both can see his point). The performance of the Eroica Variations Op. 35 (originally the coupling for Op. 31 No. 3 on the original release) is particularly stunning.

The surface of Gilels's playing may be refined and subtle, but his playing can be exciting and volatile too, and one senses this throughout. The sound he obtains from the piano is superb (his voicing of chords contributes to this). This set is a major artistic statement.

Posted on 8 Mar 2010 15:34:25 GMT
Dr Brodsky says:
Gilels maybe a great pianist (Horowitz etc) even a pianists pianist. He may get a great sound from the piano. BUT as far as MUSIC is concerned he's a bit drab. Give me Richter anyday. But then it's your choice. I don't think many people think wrong notes make you fiery and accuracy makes you pedantic. Surely it's Accuracy versus Wrong notes and Fiery versus Pedantic. Live most pianists will play wrong notes, Pedantic Gilels included. In the studio, well I don't think you could accuse Richter of hitting many wrong notes. Music versus Pianists, give me Music everyday.
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