Emil Gilels – Mosca 1977

Sono da sempre un grande ammiratore dell’ arte di Emil Gilels (1916 – 1985) e lo considero uno dei massimi esponenti in assoluto nella storia esecutiva dello strumento. La sua tecnica assolutamente fenomenale e il suono possente, uniti alla perfetta padronanza delle architetture musicali, lo rendevano interprete ideale del grande repertorio romantico che sapeva rendere con uno stile epico e grandioso e un senso della narrazione che pochi altri pianisti hanno saputo eguagliare. Arthur Rubinstein, che lo ascoltò nel 1932 a Odessa e ne rimase talmente impressionato da sostenerlo agli inizi della carriera e fu suo amico per tutta la vita, aveva profetizzato che Gilels avrebbe raggiunto la piena maturità di interprete intorno ai settant’ anni di età. Purtroppo il destino impedì il realizzarsi di questa previsione ma la documentazione discografica lasciataci dall’ artista testimonia ancor oggi il valore altissimo della sua lezione esecutiva, soprattutto pensando a dischi come l’ integrale dei Concerti di Beethoven realizzata insieme a George Szell, i Concerti di Brahms con Eugen Jochum, lo straordinario Concerto K. 595 di Mozart con Karl Böhm, a mio avviso la migliore versione discografica in assoluto di questo brano, il ciclo delle Sonate beethoveniane per la DG, rimasto purtroppo incompleto, le registrazioni del Quartetto op. 25 di Brahms e dello schubertiano Forellenquintett insieme al Quartetto Amadeus, la Sonata op. 84 di Prokofiev della quale fu il primo interprete e la stupenda selezione dei Pezzi Lirici di Grieg, solo per citare gli esempi più rilevanti della statura interpretativa straordinaria di questo pianista.

Il video che vi presento è un magnifico documento di un Gilels all’ apice della forma, ripreso dalla televisione sovietica durante un recital solistico nella Sala Grande del Conservatorio di Mosca.

Schumann: Four piano pieces op.32
Brahms 4 ballades op.10
Chopin Polonaise c moll op.40 № 2
Chopin: Sonate № 3 h moll op.58

Emil Gilels, pf.

Mosca, Sala Grande del Conservatorio, 27.12.1977

Come integrazione del video, aggiungo questo articolo commemorativo apparso sul New York Times subito dopo la morte dell’ artista.


Emil Gilels, one of the world’ s great pianists and, in 1955, the first Soviet musician to perform in the United States since Sergei Prokofiev in 1921, died in a Moscow hospital Monday, apparently of kidney failure. Mr. Gilels also had a history of heart trouble, and the exact cause of death was not reported. He was 68 years old, and had been scheduled to embark on a concert tour of Switzerland next week.

Mr. Gilels was a stocky man with a shock of sandy hair and short, stubby fingers, uncharacteristic for a pianist. But his greatness was widely recognized. Howard Taubman of The New York Times proclaimed him a ”great pianist” on the occasion of his New York debut at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 4, 1955. After his first New York recital a week later, Harold C. Schonberg invoked the phrase ”little giant,” the term the critic W. J. Henderson had used for the pianist and composer Eugen d’Albert at the turn of the century.

Mr. Gilels continued to receive such encomiums throughout his career, both in the Soviet Union, where he had taught at the Moscow Conversatory since 1938, and in the West. Altogether, he made 14 American tours, the last in 1983. On the occasion of his last New York recital, on April 16, 1983, Donal Henahan wrote in The Times of his ”formidable, high-finish technique and beautiful control of nuance.”

Procession of Soviet Artists

Mr. Gilels led the procession of Soviet artists of his generation to the West; others who emerged shortly after his debut were David Oistrakh, the violinist; Sviatoslav Richter, the pianist, and Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist. Mr. Rostropovich later became an outspoken dissident and is now music director of the National Symhony in Washington, but the others remained honored Russian citizens.

Together, this group suggested that the traditions of Romantic music-making had not died out in the relatively isolated Russian musical world. ”The precepts of Leopold Auer still prevailed in violin pedagogy, and the pianists stemmed straight from Anton Rubinstein and the Leschetizky school,” Mr. Schonberg wrote in 1979, on the occasion of one of Mr. Gilels’s periodic returns to the American concert scene.

But especially in his later years, Mr. Gilels was a more Classically inclined pianist than, say, Mr. Richter. In 1970 he even offered an all-Mozart recital at Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall, which Allen Hughes of The Times called ”superbly wrought.”

Basically, however, Mr. Gilels was a big, rich-toned pianist who could ride triumphantly over an orchestra in the mainstream Romantic piano concertos – those of Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, all of which he recorded. He wasn’t always note-perfect, but he commanded his repertory with an elan that made such flaws seem insignificant. And unlike some powerhouse virtuosos, he had a poetic gift that enlivened slow movements.

Music at Home as a Child

Emil Grigoryevich Gilels was born on Oct. 19, 1916, in Odessa, a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea that was also the birthplace of Mr. Oistrakh and Nathan Milstein, another leading violinist. Mr. Gilels’ s family, though it contained no professional musicians, made music actively in the home. Mr. Gilels began studying the piano at the age of 6, gave his first public recital at 9 and made his formal concert debut at 13. He entered the Odessa Conservatory in 1931, and the next year he met the Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who was visiting the city on a tour; the two remained friends until Mr. Rubinstein’s death in 1982.

In 1933, Mr. Gilels won a nationwide Soviet piano competition. He graduated from the Odessa Conservatory in 1935 and took an advanced degree from the Moscow Conservatory in 1936 with G. G. Neuhaus. In 1938, he won first prize in an international piano competition in Brussels.

Mr. Gilels was scheduled to make his American debut in 1939, at the New York World’s Fair, but the outbreak of war prevented that. In 1942 he joined the Communist Party, and his party loyalty sometimes provoked anti-Soviet demonstrations at his American concerts. There were fears of such incidents at his last recital here in 1983, with police reinforcements, but the concert proceeded uneventfully. Mr. Gilels received many prestigious Soviet awards, including the Stalin Prize, the Lenin Prize and two Orders of Lenin, the nation’s highest honor.

U.S. Debut in Philadelphia

His American debut in 1955 was preceded by several European engagements, starting in Italy in 1951. The first American tour, at the height of the Cold War, was made possible by the surge of good feeling following the Geneva Conference, and by the efforts of the violinist Yehudi Menuhin in obtaining American visas for Mr. Gilels and Mr. Oistrakh.

Mr. Gilels’ s actual American debut, on Oct. 3, 1955, in Philadelphia with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’ s Concerto No. 1, preceded his New York debut with the same forces by one day. Critical opinion was respectful of his technical gifts, but some felt him to be lacking in subtlety as an interpreter.

Mr. Gilels was also the soloist for the first visit of a Soviet orchestra to the United States, playing the same Tchaikovksy concerto on Jan. 3, 1960, with the Moscow State Symphony in Carnegie Hall. Since then, he appeared regularly in both America and Europe, and had played the Tchaikovsky in London as recently as a year ago.

A hearty, straightforward man, Mr. Gilels always professed pleasure in his warm reception by American audiences. ”I first came here 22 years ago,” he said in 1977. ”I lost here in the United States very much of my heart. You know, I left here a good portion of my life.”

Survivors include a daughter, Elena, who is herself a successful concert pianist. A Moscow Conservatory spokesman said yesterday that a memorial ceremony would be held tomorrow at the conservatory, and that Mr. Gilels would be buried the same day.

Per concludere, ecco due collegamenti esterni di approfondimento.

A questo link  si può trovare una lista completa delle incisioni discografiche di Emil Gilels.

Questo è il sito della Emil Gilels Foundation, che contiene numerose foto e documenti oltre alla biografia e alla cronologia dettagliata di tutti i concerti tenuti da Gilels.



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