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Walter Gieseking, Piano
Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms
Walter Gieseking, Piano
Genres: Pop, Classical


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Gieseking Playing Mostly Non-French Repertoire!
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 03/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"As time goes on people have tended to forget that Walter Gieseking (1895-1956) was a pianist with a very broad repertoire; he has been remembered primarily for his playing of French music (Debussy, Ravel) or French-influenced music (Scriabin), and many reissues of his many recordings in those areas are readily available. This 4CD collection from Andante contains music that is mostly from the non-French area: Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Grieg, Schumann, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, and even the little 'Ständchen' of Richard Strauss in Gieseking's own transcription. Since Amazon has not, as of this writing, specified the set's contents I will do so here:

CD1: Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 (Rosbaud, Berlin State Opera Orch., 1937), No. 5 (Walter, VPO, 1934), two movements from Bach's Partita No. 1

CD2: Beethoven: Waldstein Sonata; Bagatelle in E flat, Op. 33, No. 1; Bach: Partita No. 5 in G; Beethoven: Sonata No. 28 in A, Op. 101; Brahms: 5 Intermezzi from Opp. 76, 116, 118, 110; Debussy: Réverie; Strauss: Ständchen, Op. 17, No. 2

CD3: Grieg: Piano Concerto (Rosbaud, Berlin State Opera Orch., 1937); Grieg: Cradle Song & French Serenade; Schumann: Piano Concerto (Furtwängler, BPO, 1942); Mozart: Sonata No. 16 in C, K. 545

CD4: Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Mengelberg, Concertgebouw, 1940); PC No. 3 (Mengelberg, Concertgebouw, 1940)

Many of these recordings are live and there is slight audience noise and applause. In general the sound is remarkable for the time. As for the playing, Gieseking was a master of musicality and had a lovely touch. There are a number of noticeable clinkers in the live performances, none of them particularly awful and some of them rather endearing. His playing is characterized by a liveliness and élan as well as subtle phrasing, voicing of chords, and clearly delineated polyphony. I particularly liked his somewhat Romantic Bach, his hellbent-for-leather Beethoven fast movements (the Waldstein is fabulous in that regard). I don't know of any other Gieseking recording of the First Beethoven PC, but of course he recorded the Emperor several times. This one is wonderful, atmospheric, and he manages that hesitant transition from II to III with a suspenseful fermata before he plunges headlong into the Rondo. The Rachmaninoff Third is a little weak technically (and the sound is not the best, either) but the Second is one of the better ones I know.

All in all, this collection is worth having--although it is a little pricey. There is not a bad performance in the lot, and some of them are simply superb--the Waldstein, First and Fifth Beethoven PCs, Schumann and Grieg PCs, Rachy 2, the little Mozart C major sonata beloved by all young piano students, Debussy 'Réverie.'

This one will happily be given space on my shelves.

4CDs: ca. 5 hrs

Scott Morrison"
Past vibes
Jeffrey Teich | Evanston IL | 03/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The industrial age gave birth to the first widely held public concerts as well as the musical conservatory. The Paris Conservatoire appeared in 1795, the Royal Academy in 1830, The prosperity of this period generated an ever-growing embourgeoisement of the populace whose urge to imitate wealthy tastes created a demand for musical artists. This was the heyday of Paganini, Liszt, and later Paderewski,. To serve this rising clamor for culture great musical performance traditions developed in France, Germany, and, fuelled primarily by the upper classes, in Russia. From these beginnings came the great names of the 20th century concert stage: Robert Cassadeus, Artur Rubinstein, and Artur Schnabel among many others. In contrast Walter Gieseking rose via a different route. Largely an autodidact, Gieseking began formal study only relatively late in his artistic development Still, he became one of the great pianists of the period, a remarkable interpreter of Beethoven, Ravel, and, as we shall see, Rachmaninoff.

This album contains a number of live and some studio recordings whose hisses, pops, and even one very bad scratch assail the fine musicianship but fortunately fail. One can actually hear the sound engineers struggling to remaster these problems, now bringing the orchestra forward, now the piano in what is a mostly vain attempt to highlight the dominant passages. The original recording conditions must have been nightmarish. Still, Gieseking's spectacular playing shines through. He gives us a stirring performance of Beethoven's Waldstein, an intelligent Schumann concerto in A major Op. 54 ( a personal favorite of mine.) He performs sweetly romantic renditions of several Bach partitas, though I much prefer his contemporary Landowska's more powerful exegeses His interpretation of Beethoven's Emperor with the great Bruno Walter conducting stands as a landmark for both men. Brahms, Grieg, Debussy, Richard Strauss, and others are also represented.

But what I found most satisfying of all was the interpretation of the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3. This is a live 1940 performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and I cannot help but wonder if the bombs had yet fallen on Amsterdam. Gieseking's takes the first movement andante which is to say a good deal slower than Rachmaninoff's directions to go allegro ma non tanto. Yet Gieseking has found something more than even the composer himself seems to have imagined. I own any number of recordings of this piece from the gentle Ashkenazy to the muscular Argerich. Gieseking alone has found an understanding of the third which I find surprisingly correct and even illuminating. He also has the help of a wonderful piano whose perfect harmonic coloration transcends the years in keeping with Gieseking's outstanding musicianship.

I have avoided the topic of Gieseking's controversial nazi connections because the historical record, as far as I have been able to understand it, remains vague. He played widely during the nazi era and did nothing to distance himself from the party. Like many Germans he obtained official "denazification" in the early fifties and briefly resumed his worldwide concert career until his death in 1956.

I strongly recommend this album. Perhaps new sequential imaging techniques will restore these recordings to their original form. Then we will all be able to own a bit of eternity.