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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Friedrich Gulda Was A Man Of Many Parts

By Norman Lebrecht on March 5, 2021

Friedrich_Gulda

Friedrich Gulda: Symphony in G (SWR Musik)

★★★★☆

🎧 Presto | Amazon

The Viennese pianist Friedrich Gulda was a commanding interpreter of Mozart and Beethoven in the 1950s and 1960s. Had he stuck to the classics and modified his more eccentric behaviours, he might have filled the space in the record catalogues that was soon occupied by Alfred Brendel.

Gulda, however, was a man of many parts. After giving his Carnegie Hall debut, he went off to play the Newport Jazz Festival. He wore a Turkish kepi on stage, sometimes otherwise naked.

His interest in jazz was non-pecuniary and all-consuming. He organized an international competition for modern jazz composers and set up a summer course in improvisation. In 1970, he wrote a symphony in G that combined classical string orchestra and jazz big band. It has three movements: Maestoso, Andante and Adagio. It is nearer Nuremburg than New Orleans.

Friedrich_Gulda-_Symphony_in_G

But Gulda has a gift for melody and his slow movements are unassumedly affecting. He conducts the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra himself and, if you buy this album, you will be among the first to hear the symphony, since it has not been released before. Naive at worst, it has 35 minutes of invention, which is more than can be said for most late 20th century symphonies. And if your attention does flag, skip to the bonus tracks of Gulda playing piano, when you will be instantly aware that you are in the presence of a master.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

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