Emil Gilels

"No one is interested in these little pieces": Gilels didn't want to make this recording.

"No one will buy this, because no one is interested in these little pieces".

Emil Gilels didn't want to make this recording that soon became a landmark not only for Gilels but for the entire piano literature.

With the 66 pieces that form the 10 books of the Lyric Pieces, nearly all short or very short and of medium difficulty, Edvard Grieg (Bergen, 1843 - 1907) introduces himself to the international public as a lyrical poet, on the heels of Mendelssohn's  Romances without words, but with an harmonic, formal and expressive language of great originality.

The diffusion of the Lyric Pieces in all Europe was huge in the amateur market in an historic period where Flaubert described the piano  "indispensable in any parlour"; in them we find a sort of journal of the cultural interests of the petty bourgeoisie, from the picturesque sketch to the contemplation of nature, to the popular picture, to the panic feeling for nature, to the society dance.

Unlike what happens in Chopin Mazurkas or in Liszt Hungarian Rapsodies, in the Lyrical Pieces the stylistic features that belong to the folklore and the ones that belong to the formal western heritage do not permeate but remain separate and discernible, therefore giving life to a unmistakably recognizable "nordic" atmosphere.

In the first 25 years of his career Emil Gilels (Odessa, 1916 - Moscow, 1985) was recognized as one of the greatest pianist of all times, his virtuosism was superb for velocity, explosive strength, control of the sonority, his "octaves" were impressive, his healthy rhetoric nailed the listeners to their chairs.

In the second part of his career, around after 1960, Gilels has also proved capable of exquisitely musical research, shifting his attention also to pieces where the virtuosity of strength and speed were not needed: the recording of 20 of the Lyric Pieces represent his masterpiece in this field.

Walter Gieseking, amazing performer of the Lyric Pieces, chose the way of the reconstruction of an environment and his performance always resembled that of an extremely cultured amateur. 

Gilels never forgets to be one of the greatest virtuoso and his technical mastery is thoroughly expressed in a marvelous control of the sonority and he his very focused to find out those unusual and exotic harmonic and melodic elements (see for example op. 71 n. 7  "Remembrances") that made the fortune of Grieg among his contemporaries. 

Where Gilels is unrivalled is in the quality of his sound technique.

It is here of such an heartbreaking beauty that it cannot really be missed by anyone...

Emil Gilels plays Grieg Lyric Pieces 

• Book I  Op. 12 N. 1  “Arietta” 

• Book X  Op. 71 N. 7  “Rememberances” 

Articles in the same category: