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.
Gulda had a gift for melody and his slow movements are unassumingly affecting
His interest in jazz was non-pecuniary and all-consuming. He organised 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.
But Gulda had a gift for melody and his slow movements are unassumingly affecting. He conducts the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra himself and, if you buy this release, 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-twentieth century symphonies. And if your attention does flag, skip to the bonus tracks of Gulda playing piano, and you will be instantly aware that you are in the presence of a master.
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