Friday, 21 December 2012

Great recordings that never were

A young Emil Gilels
Christmas is almost upon us and has set me thinking about what non-existent treasures I might request from the Music Gods, should I have their number. The era of recorded history is full of missed opportunities: great artists who would have been sublime in particular repertoire but who never had the chance to set it down on record. Here are a few things I wish could have been a reality:

Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues played by Emil Gilels

One of the great twentieth century cycles for the piano and a pianist of lofty nobility; alas, it never quite happened. Gilels – arguably one of the two greatest pianists to have emerged from the Soviet Union – was more closely associated with Prokofiev than Shostakovich. He did, however, record 3 of the 24 Preludes and Fugues, including the final one, which appeared on Columbia and EMI. The blistering intensity of the final fugue suggests Gilels could have worked wonders with the rest of the set.

Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for solo violin played by David Oistrakh

Oistrakh did a lot to promote the music of Ysaÿe in Russia. He recorded a number of pieces for violin and piano and, with his son Igor, became practically the sole proponent of the poeme Amitié. Yet, for some reason, he never fully tackled the most famous of Ysaÿe’s works, the Six Sonatas for solo violin. We have a recording of the third, the famous Ballade, but no more.

Elgar’s Violin Concerto played by Fritz Kreisler

Although the work was dedicated to him, Fritz Kreisler’s involvement with Elgar’s Violin Concerto wasn’t an entirely happy one. He stripped out the solo part’s more idiosyncratic details and didn’t leave a recording of this grandest of works for violin and orchestra. He was, though, the most loved violinist of his generation and must surely have been quite something in this piece. He isn’t the only great violinist who performed this piece but left no recording, however. Eugene Ysaÿe did much to promote it in the first years after its composition, but by the time the technology existed to capture a work of this scale, he was some way past his best. David Oistrakh made the Concerto known in Russia, but no recording of him playing it has emerged.

These are just a few what-ifs that I wish had been a reality. What do you wish the great musicians of the past had left on record for posterity? What neglected masterpieces are ripe for re-recording? Let us know in the comments below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oistrakh in Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin.

S. Richter in Beethoven's 5th Concerto.

Rubinstein in Chopin's Etudes.

Gilels in Beethoven op.111.