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Tim Parry
BBC Music Magazine, December 2012

Outstanding early Gilels, with some superb Liszt including his legendary Figaro from 1935…This is a must. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, September 2012

Emil Gilels lovers, be on high alert: Gilels playing Scarlatti! Here we have Gilels playing the same Scarlatti sonatas, but in the mid-1950s, in really pretty good sound for the era, excellently restored. Gilels’ Scarlatti is magical: pianistic in its drama and color, but classical in its tempo and clarity. Am I saying Gilels’ Scarlatti is worthy of comparison with these greats? Yes, yes I am. The opening measures of K380 make an indelible impression with their evocation of tolling bells, and the rest has an enviable fluidity and natural clarity; the B minor has poetry and expansiveness…

The rest of the disc is fantastic too. The Liszt fantasia on Le nozze de Figaro (completed by Busoni) showcases Gilels’ trademark combination of bravura and good taste…

The Chopin’s another story again: the two polonaises are in noble, gallant readings, with the legendary ‘Heroic’ Op 53 showcasing Gilels’ command of the epic and care over detail at once. The Ballade is excellently done, with real poetry and gentleness when called for but a powerfully angry final minute (those haunting quiet chords in the coda are excellently rendered). It rounds out a generous 80 minutes of fascinating playing.

Ward Marston’s sound restoration is heroic as always. For casual listeners, the rewards of these excellent recordings are to be had in the hearing. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, September 2012

Few pianists have possessed a more comprehensive, magisterial technique or musical integrity than Emil Gilels (his early volatility later calming into greater reflection). And here, in Naxos’s third volume, this time of recordings dating from 1935 to 1955, you will at once hear those salient characteristics that prompted awe and envy among even Gilels’s finest colleagues. First and foremost (even in dated sound) is what his teacher Heinrich Neuhaus called ‘an elemental virtuoso gift’ and a sound ‘rich in noble metal, 20-carat gold that we find in the voices of the great singers’.

Gilels was both the grandest and most lyric of virtuosos. His Scarlatti is warm-hearted and romantic in a way current in Russia at the time of these recordings; and if his Chopin is more sober-suited, less unforgettably exultant and heroic than, say, Rubinstein’s, it is never without Gilels’s indelible quality. His Liszt, on the other hand, is overwhelming in its pulverising strength and brilliance (try the final pages of the Figaro Fantasy), a display of formidable but effortless virtuosity complemented by that seamless legato and cantabile for which he was famous. A special thanks, then, to all those who have made this issue possible, to the inexhaustible piano archive housed at the University of Maryland, to Ward Marston for his restoration and to Judith Raynor for her unearthing of new biographical information. © 2012 Gramophone

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2012

The third volume in early recordings of the Russian pianist, Emil Gilels, covering the years from 1935—when he was nineteen—through to 1955. Many consider him to be technically the finest pianist that came from Russia in the second half of the 20th century. Others found his performances highly predictable. This disc reinforces both opinions, his Scarlatti coming from that age when well-meaning pianists were trying to make the modern piano sound like a harpsichord, greatly helped here by Russian recorded sound. But it would be a stony heart that could not enjoy his mercurial account of the familiar C major, K125, though elsewhere he adds a range of dynamics that were not available to Scarlatti. You have to make many allowances for the 1935 sound quality of Liszt’s Fantasia on a theme of Mozart, just so that we can enjoy the young man’s show of bravura, the speed of his fingers in the filigree passages is remarkable. That facility carries over to La Campanella and La Chasse, the two excerpts from the Grandes etudes, even if the end of Campenella gets too excitable. He is more circumspect in his reading of the Hungarian Rhapsodies, at times he is almost musing, and with today’s editing the end of the Ninth would have been cleaned-up. His two Chopin Polonaises are forceful with the first beat of the bar often leaned on, while his first Ballade is lovingly shaped. That the restoration engineer, Ward Marston, has derived so much pristine sound from Russian pressings is testimony to his expertise. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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