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In Memoriam Emil Gilels

When Emil Gilels died suddenly in 1985, aged 69, the world lost one of the greatest pianists on the 20th century. Today he still lives in the memories of all those who had the remarkable fortune of attending his concerts. His performances are widely regarded as the pinnacle of musical interpretation. Awe-inspiring breadth of repertoire, absolute selflessness in his art and pianistic perfection make Gilels a model for new generations of musicians. In his central work, Great Pianists of Our Time (1972), Joachim Kaiser wrote with admiration: ‘Added to Gilels’ charm, his vitality, healthiness and his feist, is an intellectual ascendancy, a dynamic and dramatic modernism that probably does in fact make him the foremost pianist of Russia’. Dedicating himself wholly to art, Gilels shunned the superficial brilliance of fame: For this reason so little was known about his private life. The aim of our charitable foundation, established in 2009 by Professor Felix Gottlieb, is to shed light on all facets of the personality and stature of this great pianist, and to reconstruct all the details of his artistic biography. The 2018 Emil Gilels Festival, which will be held in Freiburg, is dedicated to the great Russian pianist's memory.


The vast part of Gilels’ personal archive consists of hundreds of documents, photographs, letters and sketches. These are becoming available to the public in a digital format for the first time. The databases, encompassing decades of his concert and recording output, give the visitor the chance to indulge in interesting discoveries.

The fourth festival in memory of Emil Gilels will be held in March 2018 in collaboration with the Freiburg Conservatory. Concerts and masterclasses by world-renowned musicians such as Evgeny Kissin, Yefim Bronfman and Grigory Sokolov will transform the town into one of the important international centres of piano music.