Karl Bohm conducts Brahms and Mozart | Testament SBT21499

Karl Bohm conducts Brahms and Mozart


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Label: Testament

Cat No: SBT21499

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 2

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 20th October 2014



The Soviet pianist Emil Gilels (1916–1985) was always somewhat unjustly overshadowed by other famous pianists of his generation, particularly fellow-Soviet Sviatoslav Richter. The reason for this may well have been Gilels’ unassuming manner and the modest and restrained way with which he conducted his professional career.

In 20 years, he appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic only 12 times in Berlin and once in Salzburg. One needs to keep in mind that the presence of prominent soloists from the Soviet Union could not be taken for granted in what was then ‘frontline’ West Berlin. Gilels made his debut with the orchestra on 20 September 1966 in a concert conducted by Kyrill Kondrashin, playing Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto. Although he was truly a virtuoso to an unusual degree, he was not an exhibitionist.

1970 marked the 50th anniversary of the Salzburg Festival with a musical programme centred on Mozart. Gilels had to be counted among the best Mozart pianists - his interpretations were perfect. The choice of tempi, phrasing and shaping, both of the details and the whole, and also the sensitive interplay between piano and orchestra (which Gilels never presented as an upstaging virtuoso but rather as a concertante partner) were all rendered so naturally and convincingly, in a manner rarely experienced in Mozart interpretations.

Before the piano concerto, Karl Böhm had begun the concert with Mozart’s Symphony No.28 in C and the second half was given over to Brahms Second Symphony. Böhm had proven with his interpretation of the Brahms symphony that there are other more substantial dimensions to Brahms than sonority and dynamic leaps. The true sound of Brahms isn’t just beautiful, but is characterised by its own unique austerity, its formal tensions that also have emotional effects, its formal proportions only fully graspable when filled with tension to the very last. The tightness of the string section was not only wonderful to hear, but also an aesthetic sight - music translated visually into a rhythmic up and down of the string players’ bows: the evening could be described as one of the finest musical occasions of the festival.

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