Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 32 etc
Gulda clearly has lots of new things to say about Op. 111. By comparison with his recording once available on Decca Eclipse (ECS723, 6/74—nla) the first movement is more measured, with a fine sense of indomitable will-power, whilst the second is also more convincingly (and indeed, accurately) paced. There is, too, a freedom from mannerism not matched by several more famous exponents on record.
Opinions may be divided over his choice of a Bosendorfer. This has a thrilling bass register, but some may find the treble glassy. Smooth reduction of sonority seems to be a problem (as on the first page, or in the transition to the fourth variation). The effect is alternately to enhance and inhibit the interpretation, the impression of earthly struggle being more fully realized than the moments of visionary inwardness. In any case, Gulda is a little too impatient to allow glimpses of the beyond in the lyrical contrasts of the first movement, the Arietta is flowing but earthbound, and the espressivo in Var. 1 seems premature. Moreover, since he weights the tone according to melody first and foremost (largely irrespective of rhythm and metre) the second movement tends to plod—a great shame, because the tempo relationships, for once, are spot on.
Gulda's own Wintermeditation is a 20-minute, slow-moving study in sonority, which starts off in the gritty manner of Copland's Variations for piano and proceeds by way of neo-Debussian washes of sound into extended passages of Makrokosmic Crumb. Provided you expect no more than the title promises, this is an interesting offbeat filler, and the sound effects are impressively captured in the dryish acoustic.'