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Gilels: Beethoven – Piano Sonatas (9 CD box set, FLAC)

Gilels: Beethoven - Piano Sonatas (9 CD box set, FLAC)
Gilels: Beethoven - Piano Sonatas (9 CD box set, FLAC)

Performer: Emil Gilels
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 9 CD box set
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 2.08 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

CD 01
01. No. 2 in A, op. 2 no. 2; No. 3 in C, op. 2 no. 3;
02. “Kurfürsten” Sonatas, WoO 47

CD 02
01. No. 4 in E-flat, op. 7;
02. No. 8 in C minor op. 13 “Pathétique”
03. No. 10 in G, op. 14 no. 2

CD 03
01. No. 5 in C minor op. 10 no. 1;
02. No. 6 in F, op. 10 no. 2;
03. No. 7 in D, op. 10 no. 3

CD 04
01. No. 11 in B-flat, op. 22;
02. No. 12 n A-flat, op. 26;
03. “Eroica” Variations op. 35

CD 05
01. No. 13 in E-flat, op. 27 no. 1;
02. No. 14 in C-sharp minor, op. 27 no.21 “Moonlight”
03. No. 15 in D, op. 28 “Pastoral”

CD 06
01. No. 16 in G, op. 31 no. 1;
02. No. 17 in D minor, op. 31 no. 2 “The Tempest”
03. No. 18 in E-flat, op. 31 no. 3

CD 07
01. No.19 in G minor, op. 49 no. 1;
02. No. 20 in G, op. 49 no. 2;
03. No. 21 in C, op. 53 “Waldstein”
04. No. 23 in F minor, op. 57 “Appassionata”
05. No. 25 in G, op. 79

CD 08
01. No. 26 in E-flat, op. 81a “Les Adieux”
02. No. 27 in E minor, op. 90;
03. No. 30 in E;
04. No. 31 in A-flat

CD 09
01. No. 28 in A, op. 101;
02. No. 29 in B-flat, op. 106 “Hammerklavier”

Zen and the Art of Beethoven

The virtues of this set cannot be overstated: while this set is a 5/32 sonatas short of complete, it is still the one of the best overall surveys of Beethoven’s solo piano works that I have experienced.

Gilels playing exhibits perfect balance, clear phrasing, and sublime expression. Nothing is overdone or showy. Gilels’ pianism is preternatural — I don’t think I heard a single wrong/missed note, and never, even in Beethoven’s wildest moments, does Gilels lost his grip on the line.

And yet there is an abundance of humanity here – the first movement of No. 10, for example, has never sounded more understatedly beautiful, while his “Waldstein” is justly considered the among the most technically awesome displays of pianism every captured in a recording studio.

How does Gilels do it? By making it about Beethoven, and not about himself. It’s so easy to lose yourself in these sonatas. Gilels playing is so natural, so effortless, and so at one with this music.

Another quality that sets these performances apart is Gilels’ remarkable ability to elucidate the left hand parts – I heard textures and rhythms that I had missed in other performances. Beethoven’s brilliant counterpoint is on full display here. While most performers struggle to give the left hand an equal voice, Gilels plays with exceptional clarity and precision. Perhaps only Brendel and Richard Goode are in Gilels league when it comes to articulation.

The recording quality is excellent, considering the fact that this compilation is comprised of recording sessions from the ’70s and ’80s. Some misguided souls have criticized Gilels playing as being too “cold” – don’t fall for it. For all his perfectionism, Gilels imbues this music with warmth and humanity, but without the vulgarity to which so many other performers resort. Gilels demonstrates impeccable taste – letting the music speak for itself. There is none of the over-pedaled, Rachmaninoff-inflected sap that characterizes so many other performances of these sonatas.

The only other sets that I would rate as highly as this would be those by Richard Goode and Andres Schiff. Like Gilels, both Goode and Schiff focus on Beethoven’s mad-scientist structures and share Gilels’ sense of musical architecture. And like Gilels, bothe Schiff and Goode are careful not get carried away. These are classical works through and through, and Gilels, Goode and Schiff understand that the raw emotion and intellectual power of these works cannot be unleashed with Romantic gimmicks and histrionic pianism. With careful articulation, understanding of structure, and fidelity to Beethoven’s intentions this music speaks for itself.

Enthusiastically recommended.

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