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Carl Bauman
American Record Guide, July 2011

Make no mistake, this is a fine performance and a good recording; Gilels and Boult give good, solid readings…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, June 2011

Elegance and enviable virtuosity in two concerto performances from 1967

These performances were taken live from the Royal Festival Hall in 1967. And here, the klavier-tiger storms of Gilels’s first appearances in the West (for Claudia Cassidy, “of a blow-torch incandescence”) are resolved in playing of a transparency, elegance and calm that were no less characteristic of his later career. True, Gilels’s phenomenal command is much in evidence in the finales of both concertos, where the music quickens into life; and in, say, the presto coda of No 3, he may well cause lesser pianists to pale with envy. Yet even in this concerto a reserve hangs over the turbulent pages of “Beethoven’s C minor of life” (EM Forster). Everything falls naturally into place, unforced and not distorted by bluster or idiosyncrasy. Gilels makes the supposed division between Mozart’s Apollonian genius and Beethoven’s Dionysian genius dissolve in a trice.

Others may turn to the more overt, spine-tingling vitality of Serkin or the irrepressible joie de vivre of Argerich but, for unalloyed dignity and composure, these performances are hard to equal. Sir Adrian Boult’s gentlemanly, unobtrusive beat is a further asset in these finely transferred recordings.

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, May 2011

Russian soloists seemed to form a strong bond with Adrian Boult. Rostropovich’s best studio Dvoƙák concerto performance was given with the veteran British conductor. And anyone who has seen David Oistrakh’s filmed performance of the Beethoven concerto with Boult will appreciate the solidity of the professional rapport between them. The rapport extended to pianist Emil Gilels, whose July 1967 performances of these two Beethoven concertos simply reinforces the virtues of their collaboration, and also adds to the known discography. Boult had made a famous wartime 78 set of the C minor with Solomon. Gilels recorded the cycle in Cleveland with that beacon of bonhomie, gimlet eyed George Szell. He also recorded the C minor with Cluytens, and taped the Fourth and Fifth with Leopold Ludwig.

Boult proves his sagacious self. There may be the merest hint of unease orchestrally in the C major, but things very quickly settle down to a lucid exposition. The playing is excellent, even droll in places. Gilels sweeps into the first movement cadenza—the more concise of the two is played. The slow movement is highly expressive, whilst the finale is vital and engaging, with ensemble at its tightest.

In the C minor Gilels can be trenchant, almost gruff in places, but he is also precise in articulation, with fine, even trills. He reserves poetry of a direct kind for the slow movement where the winds’ phraseology is admirable, and fine spirits are released in the finale, but are ever subject to the firmest of rhythmic control. The triumph of the playing is an index of Gilels own priorities, and strongly to be admired. My own taste is rather more for the kind of thing that the then Stephen Bishop Kovacevich and Colin Davis conjured up at a few years later in their commercial recording—but there’s no denying the results of the Gilels-Boult collaboration, which is hugely and effectively realised on its own terms.

There is some high end hiss here but it’s not disturbing. The tapes come from the BBC and have been licensed to ICA Classics.

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