Exclusive: Unheard Emil Gilels

Exclusive: Unheard Emil Gilels


norman lebrecht

June 30, 2018

New on YouTube:

Liszt: Transcendental Etude in D-flat major, No.11 (Harmonies du Soir)

A live 1952 performance from the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, broadcast on Moscow Radio.

Stalin is still alive.

Gilels never recorded this piece.



  • barry guerrero says:

    I would never pretend that I know a lot about the world of classical piano. Frankly, I listen much more to jazz pianists (I love jazz). But Gilels strikes me as having possessed that rare combination of effortless sounding facility, combined with genuine musical sensitivity. Please, if I’m wrong about this, let me know and help me to get things into correct perspective.

    Regardless, I enjoyed listening to this.

  • Stephen says:

    One thing I particularly love about Gilels’ playing is that although he could play with great power and even swamp a symphony orchestra playing flat out he never hammered the keyboard.

  • Phil Goldman says:

    Interesting to compare with Richter playing the same piece. Richter has a quality of abandon missing in Gilles. That said, I think I could listen more often to Gilles, playing Richter for a special occasion.

  • M2N2K says:

    Truly extraordinary pianist who in my opinion was often underrated because of what I consider a cult of Richter who was at times conversely overrated.

  • Cyril Blair says:

    I love this piece but find I am strangely unmoved by this performance.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I agree, partly because I don’t like the sound of the instrument Gilels plays on. Moreover, I generally like Gilels’ later recordings. He became mellower, wiser and more profound. I can only hope that Yuja Wang will go down the same path. There are signs she is.

  • George Stefanou says:

    Thank you for posting this rarity. Gilels was undoubtedly a great one. However, in this piece, I prefer the outstanding performances by Bolet (Decca 1986) and especially Trifonov (second part of his epic recital in Lyon, France (2014), available on YouTube).