Emil Grigoryevich Gilels (last name sometimes transliterated as "Hilels"; Ukrainian: Емі́ль Григо́рович Гі́лельс, Ukrainian pronunciation: [ɛˈmʲilʲ ɦrʲiˈɡɔroʋʲɪtʃ ˈɦilʲɛlʲs], Russian: Эми́ль Григо́рьевич Ги́лельс, Emiľ Grigoriević Gileľs; October 19, 1916 – October 14, 1985) was a Soviet pianist. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.
- 1 Childhood (1916–1929)
- 2 The Class of Berta M. Reingbald (1929–1934)
- 3 The First All-Union Competition (1933)
- 4 The Class of Heinrich G. Neuhaus (1935–1938)
- 5 Triumph in Brussels (1938–1941)
- 6 Notable repertoire and assessment
- 7 Prizes, awards and honors
- 8 Notable recordings
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Emil Gilels was born on the 19th October 1916 (6 October Old Style) in Odessa, Russian Empire (now part of Ukraine). Gilels did not come from a musical family: his father worked as a clerk in the sugar refinery and his mother looked after the large family. Whilst Gilels’ parents both had children from previous marriages, by an inexplicable twist of fate the union of Esfir and Grigory Gilels gave the world two outstanding musicians (three years after the birth of Emil the family rejoiced at the birth of his sister Elizaveta, who subsequently became a renowned violinist).
Music was loved despite the difficulties of uncertain times in Odessa and much attention was bestowed onto musically-gifted children. The Gilels family owned a piano despite living in a modest flat in the poor area of the famous Moldavanka. Already from the age of two the young Emil attentively tried its keys and listened in to the resulting sounds. He also reacted sensitively to all other sounds that he came across – the sounds of a passing wind orchestra, singing, and the peeling of bells. Gradually it became evident that the boy had perfect pitch of a rare accuracy, easily recognizing notes belonging even to unmusical sounds.
At the age of five and a half Emil was taken  to Yakov Tkach, a famous piano pedagogue in Odessa. Emil completed his first period of studies with unprecedented ease. His hands did not need to be ‘positioned’ as they seemed to move so naturally around the keyboard. His extraordinary ear and memory helped him to quickly and easily assimilate all the necessary musical rudiments and grammar. In only a few months he was already playing all three volumes of Loeschhorn’s studies, and soon afterwards Clementi and Mozart sonatinas.
Having studied with the famous French pianists Raoul Pugno and Alexander Villoing., Tkach’s pianistic genealogy traced back to Frédéric Chopin, via Pugno, and to Muzio Clementi, via Villoing. Nevertheless, the primary focus of Tkach’s pedagogical method was the development of his students’ technique: Tkach’s manner was severe and the young Gilels, a gentle and sensitive child who at home was surrounded by a loving atmosphere, tried to hide his feelings as suffered from the stern discipline of his teacher. Tkach emphasized on scales and studies. Gilels later credited this strict training for establishing the foundation of his technique.
The pianistic development of Gilels progressed unbelievably quickly. Tkach had to constantly restrain his student. Emil loved rushing around the keyboard, and the more technically demanding the piece the more pleasure he derived from playing it. Away from his studies and in secret from adults Gilels improvised, thus compensating for the lack of attention from his teacher to the musical side of his playing. He was greatly attracted to theatre, composed a little and loved to imagine himself as a conductor. All this however happened at home whilst a severe drill awaited him in his lessons that subsequently formed the basis for his astonishing virtuosity – already at the age of eleven or twelve Gilels had been able to master etudes of Chopin and Liszt.
Despite some of the limitations of Tkach’s approach to Gilels’ development, he was the first to unmistakably identify the real worth of his young student’s gift. When Gilels was nine years old Tkach wrote in his report that ‘Milya Gilels possesses the abilities of one who is born solely for the purpose of becoming a pianist, and that with the required attention to his development, the USSR would in the future enrich itself with the acquisition of a world-renowned pianist.’ Tkach spared his brilliant student from the dangers of squandering his astonishing talent as an infant prodigy: concerts by ‘wunderkind’ were widespread in Odessa, and Gilels, greatly attracted to the stage, liked to play before an audience – but his teacher wisely restricted the number of his performances.
In May 1929 aged twelve, Gilels gave his first public concert. His programme included Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, Liszt’s Concert Etude Un Sospiro, a selection of Scarlatti sonatas, Mendelssohn’s Scherzo, and some of Chopin’s etudes and waltz, alongside other pieces. Following his performance it was not only or exclusively the great facility and virtuosity that amazed his sophisticated critics, but the depth and profundity of the interpretation as well as his astounding clarity and polish that was devoid of anything careless, trivial or unintentional. Throughout the huge artistic journey that lay before Gilels, these characteristics remained central to his Art.
For all those interested in Gilels’ unbelievable talent it was clear that he had already out-grown his teacher. Gilels dreamed of studying with Felix Blumenfeld, but Blumenfeld was already gravely ill at the time and died soon after. In the autumn of 1930 Gilels was accepted to the Odessa Conservatory into the class of Berta Reingbald, whom Gilels credited as a formative influence.
The Class of Berta M. Reingbald (1929–1934)
Berta Reingbald came from a family of famous architects, and studied with E. Chernetskaya-Geshelin (a student of Vasiliy Safanov). By the time Gilels met Reingbald she already had a reputation of not only being a highly cultured and broadly educated person, but also as an eminent piano pedagogue: she had taught important musicians including B. Marantz, T. Goldfarb and B. Kozel. Her experience in working with highly talented students lead Reingbald to recognize immediately that Gilels possessed a talent that was in a completely different league, never before witnessed. She subsequently began to pay close attention to his development.
It fell upon Reingbald to work with Gilels at a hard time in his development: the lively fourteen year old with wide-ranging interests sometimes would swap practising for spending time with friends. Berta Reingbald overcame these difficulties with great patience, sometimes even working with him for several hours every day. She was interested in all aspects of his life and adapted to his strong character. However, the most important thing that she did for Gilels was to broaden his cultural knowledge. Reingbald introduced him to a lot of music that he had previously not known about, she introduced him to Odessa’s musicians and music-lovers, and awoke in him an inquisitive interest to the Arts.
Besides his musical talent Gilels had a capacity for humanities. Aged thirteen and a half he had already entered the conservatory on account of finishing his general schooling (and although his relationship with mathematics, akin to many musicians, was tense, history and literature came to him very easily). Because of the mentoring of Reingbald, Gilels was able to enrich his astounding musical intuition with a more complete knowledge and understanding of the Arts. The work at perfecting his pianism was unending, and if at the age of thirteen he had achieved that which many virtuosi may only dream of attaining at the end of their studies, in the next step of his development between the age of fourteen and sixteen, Gilels acquired such pianistic traits that were only given to a select few in the whole history of piano interpretation.
It did not take long for the fruits of Reingbald’s work with Gilels to materialize. At the start of the 1930s Odessa was often visited by important touring musicians. Gilels was shown to Alexander Borovsky and Artur Rubinstein. Without conferring both musicians described the impact of Gilels’ playing as ‘astounding,’ and Artur Rubinstein went on to predict that if Gilels were to come to America he would eclipse everyone including Rubinstein himself.
Like Tkach, Reingbald protected her student from excessive concert performances. Yet, she did organize for him to play in the All-Ukrainian Competition despite Gilels being below the age limit to participate. The jury was impressed by his performance and they presented him a scholarship that freed him from the need to play concerts to earn money for his living expenses. The main goal of Berta Reingbald however, was the participation of Gilels in the First All-Union Competition of Performers which was announced to take place in 1933 in Moscow.
The First All-Union Competition (1933)
The competition was planned as an important event with its aim being to show the country, and the world, the successes of the Soviet system in the Arts. The best young musicians of the USSR were preparing to take part in the competition including those who had recently gained the world’s attention in the Second International Chopin Piano Competition in Poland.
At this point Gilels was not yet known in Moscow and Berta Reingbald decided to take her student for a consultation with Heinrich Neuhaus, whom she deeply respected as a musician. Neuhaus had already acquired a reputation as a prominent piano professor and in the autumn of 1932, half a year before the competition, the sixteen year old Gilels came to Moscow and played to him. Neuhaus however, did not fully understand Gilels’ gift: he heard only the brilliant virtuosic facility (which being a sensitive musician gave Neuhaus an element of apprehension), and he did not notice that which had astounded Borovsky and Rubinstein – a profound content that took its form not from elaborate Romantic means, but was endowed with a simplicity that was well beyond the years of such a young musician. In this way two points of view on Gilels’ pianism were formed – one found in him a unique Artist who had already in his youth attained the highest level of simplicity, and the other found in him a bold Soviet pianist with amazing facility and interpretations based on the ideals of ‘Soviet-objectivism.’
The competition however showed that Neuhaus was mistaken. Gilels’ playing created a sensation – when he finished his programme the auditorium rose up in tumultuous ovation and even the jury stood to applaud. The question of first prize was not even discussed: in a unanimous decision Gilels was announced the winner.
What was it that impressed the audience so much in his performance of Rameau, Bach-Godowsky’s Fugue, Brahms’ Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Ravel’s Toccata and Mozart-Liszt-Busoni’s Fantasia on Two Themes from ‘The Marriage of Figaro’? According to the numerous musicians who heard Gilels’ performance (including Dmitri Shostakovich, Yakov Flier, Dmitri Kabalevsky and Lev Barenboim), his playing captivated the listener with its spellbinding sincerity of communication, an unusually warm, full and diverse sound, its springy ‘live’ and pulsating rhythm, phenomenal virtuosity and also clarity, logic, good-taste and noble simplicity. According to many, they had never before heard playing of this calibre: it was a ‘moment of truth’ for pianism, and all those present knew that before them stood a great pianist.
The competition changed Emil’s life – he was suddenly famous throughout the land. His younger sister, Liza, was performing successfully as a violinist, and Josef Stalin himself commented on the remarkably talented siblings. From this point Gilels’ fame in the USSR was tinged by a political shadow that subsequently proved a hindrance to his critical reception.
Following the competition, Gilels embarked on an extensive concert tour around the USSR. His concerts were followed by critiques written by reviewers who, at the time, were fixated on finding a ‘truly Soviet’ interpretative style. Gilels’ playing was always characterized by a heroic intensity, elastic rhythm and humanism. However in his youth this list, understandably, accommodated exaggerated tempos that stemmed from his unbelievable virtuosity, and a certain over-simplification of artistic ideas that derived from his youthful inability to sufficiently communicate a wide enough range of feelings. As a consequence of these qualities he was heralded as the epitome of Soviet style. His playing was characterized in language borrowed from industrial manufacture. This hurt the young pianist who at the time was striving to attain the complete antithesis of these remarks – he wanted to realize the lyrical aspects of his gift.
However, the critics did not stop at ‘the masonry of broad structures’ in their descriptions of Gilels’ playing. By proclaiming Gilels as a young, experimental example of a ‘truly Soviet’ pianism, some of them decided that they had the right to correct and educate him: to watch that he does not falter in this path. At the same time, Gilels was facing a different, more actual problem. The expansive concert tours meant that he could not practise or increase his repertoire: Gilels felt his development as a pianist was being stunted. Weary from these thoughts and the constant nagging of the press, Emil displayed his strong character. He terminated all further engagements and returned to Odessa into the calm environment and security provided by his favourite teacher Reingbald. Gilels even turned down an invitation to transfer to the Moscow Conservatory, deciding instead to finish his course at the Odessa Conservatory. Furthermore, Gilels would subsequently regard Berta Reingbald as his true teacher, mentor and life-long friend.
The Class of Heinrich G. Neuhaus (1935–1938)
Gilels graduated from the Odessa Conservatory in the autumn of 1935. Subsequently, he was accepted into the class of Heinrich Neuhaus as a postgraduate student at the Moscow Conservatory, and Gilels renewed his commitment to giving concerts. Neuhaus was a student of Leopold Godowsky and had had lessons with Aleksander Michałowski, who had studied with Carl Mikuli, Chopin's student, assistant and editor. The outset of Gilels’ career was turbulent and it did not help that his relationship with Neuhaus was a strained one. Neuhaus refused to acknowledge the fact that Gilels, already a laureate of an important competition, was a famous musician in his own right. Neuhaus had no qualms in sardonically pointing out Gilels’ minor faults, and indeed felt that this was necessary if only to make sure that the young pianist did not become conceited and complacent. However, Gilels’ nature was such that he was exceptionally modest, shy and self-critical: in fact, far from the fear of complacency, Gilels was in need of encouragement in his Artistic searching and sensitive, heartfelt guidance.
Despite the wider ramifications of his competition-acclaim, Neuhaus continued to see Gilels’ achievements first and foremost as a virtuoso who was in dire need of working unceasingly at his musicality and general understanding of music. The heroic passion of Gilels’ pianism was somewhat at odds to Neuhaus’ westernized cultural refinement: Neuhaus dismissed the clarity and simplicity of Gilels’ interpretations as the manifestations of his ignorance and failed to see that in fact these qualities had their roots in the very same simplicity that is attained in later life by all but a select few. Notwithstanding this, Gilels then and in future gained much from his association with Neuhaus although their relationship never gained the cordial understanding that Gilels hoped for.
For Gilels the difficulty in this period of his life was not that he was searching aimlessly for ‘inner-content.’ He knew that this existed in his pianism. Instead the complexity of Gilels’ development at this time lay in the fact that this was a transitory phase: the time when a differentiation forms between a youthful performance that relies on musical intuition and a mature musician who replaces this blind intuition with a thorough understanding of his musical accomplishments. This phase is passed through by most great musicians, but for Gilels, whose musical intuition was nothing short of genius and captured such a complete spectre of feelings and styles, this journey was especially hard. In order for this perceptive intuition to materialize into the consciousness it required a lot of hard work which, in the absence of Neuhaus’ understanding, and excluding some requests for help from Konstantin Igumnov and Samuil Feinberg, Gilels had to undertake alone.
Also hard at this time were the living conditions for Gilels. Before the government gave him a flat in Moscow, Gilels had to rent a room to live in. Within the conservatory Gilels was isolated and found only a few friends such as Yakov Flier and Yakov Zak. In the conservatory the trend was to play in an ‘interesting’ manner and to ‘think-up’ something new – a trait that Gilels felt was a manifestation of bad taste. He was not understood and his interpretation was condescendingly considered ‘simplistic.’
On the surface however, things seemed to be going well. Gilels’ brilliant virtuosity was acquiring strength, his mastery was gaining a great degree of polish, and his repertoire was increasing. His interpretations of Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Opus 35 and Ballade No. 1 in G minor Opus 23, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor Opus 23, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat S. 124 and Spanish Rhapsody S. 254 and Schumann’s Toccata Opus 7 became events in themselves. The public adored Gilels in defiance to the fact that the critics continued to educate him. The ordinary listeners felt what many important musicians already knew, and what a substantial number of professional musicians failed to comprehend – the noble simplicity and profundity of Gilels’ Art.
The unbelievable phenomenon, ‘Gilels’, found its recognition from the outside. Upon arriving to Moscow at the start on 1936, the great conductor Otto Klemperer performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Opus 37 with none other than Gilels as the soloist. In the wake of this performance some members of the conservatory found it ‘a first-year student performance.’ Yet writing later, Neuhaus reported that it was an ‘outstanding performance’ in which he ascertained structural integrity, truth and simplicity.
In 1936 Gilels participated in his first international competition – the International Vienna Music Academy Competition. Despite attracting the attention of Europe and the unquestionable prestige of being a finalist, Gilels looked upon the second place awarded to him as a failure. First place was awarded to his friend Yakov Flier – an intensely Romantic pianist.
Triumph in Brussels (1938–1941)
In 1938 Gilels and Flier set off to the notoriously difficult (in programme and competitor ranking) 1938 Ysaÿe International Festival in Brussels. They were expected to uphold the victories of the Soviet violinists, lead by David Oistrakh two years earlier, and to return in triumph. The programme requirements were incredibly demanding with three rounds and the additional requirement to include in the final round (alongside a solo programme and concerto) a concerto that was especially commissioned for the competition by a Belgian composer – the score of which was provided only a week in advance. The jury of the competition was made up of eminent musicians including Arthur Rubinstein, Samuil Feinberg, Emil von Sauer, Ignaz Friedman, Walter Gieseking, Robert Casadesus, Carlo Zecchi, Leopold Stokowski, Otto Klemperer, and Arthur Bliss.
These musicians knew that despite the incredibly high standard of all the finalists, before them stood a great pianist of the twentieth century – Emil Gilels. Gilels was awarded the first prize and Flier took the third. The other competitors included Moura Lympany in second place, and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in seventh place.
What did they hear in the playing of this young titan? Apart from the spellbinding virtuosity and emotional intensity, the logic of the whole and the thorough conception and projection of all the details, the unique sound (which even despite his critical inclination towards Gilels, Neuhaus called ‘golden’), the pulsating ‘live’ and elastic rhythm, huge dynamic range, flawless command of time, discipline, reliability and much more; the jurors appreciated his impeccable taste, sincerity of emotion and Classical economy of means that is inherent only to the greatest musicians, and as a rule acquired at the end of one’s creative life. Gilels was already both an important Artist and a pianist ‘without weaknesses.’ Through the medium of the piano he could achieve anything.
The whole musical world began to talk about Gilels. Following the competition he was meant to embark on a lengthy concert tour, including a tour of the USA. These plans were abruptly interrupted by the Second World War. On home soil Gilels became a hero: he received a medal for his achievements, was greeted by a welcome party upon his return and in the Soviet consciousness his name sounded in equal rank with the names of famous explorers, pilots and film stars. He became the embodiment of an epoch – whilst this contributed to his popularity in this youth, it had serious repercussions throughout his later life (especially in musical circles). By becoming emblazed as a beacon of all ‘Soviet’ in Art it was easy to overlook that this label had nothing to do with the inner content of Gilels’ pianism.
In spite of the fact that Europe and America had primarily only heard Gilels through radio broadcasts (he had only been able to give a few concerts in Belgium and France), news of the amazing pianist reached Sergei Rachmaninov. Rachmaninov had already heard of Gilels in the aftermath of the All-Union Competition through letters sent to him from friends in Moscow, and now he began to listen to Gilels’ radio performances. Rachmaninov decided that Gilels alone was worthy of being called his successor in terms of pianism and even went so far as to send him his medal and diploma. This medal, engraved with the profile of Anton Rubinstein, and diploma were once presented to Rachmaninov to symbolize his succession from Rubinstein, and Rachmaninov himself added Gilels’ name to the document. Emil Gilels treasured these relics all his life and through his incredible modesty kept the fact of these possessions shrouded in silence.
Gilels completed his postgraduate studies in 1938 and began teaching at the Moscow Conservatory (from 1952 becoming a professor). His pedagogical work continued sporadically until 1976, but because of the huge demands of his concerts he could not devote much time to teaching. Nevertheless his class numbered important pianists such as Marina Mdivani, Irina Smorodinova, Valery Afanassiev, Igor Zhukov and the pianist-composer Vladimir Blok.
Following his triumph at Brussels, a scheduled American debut at the 1939 New York World's Fair was aborted because of the outbreak of the Second World War. During the War, Gilels entertained Soviet troops with morale-boosting open-air recitals on the frontline, of which film archive footage exists. In 1945, he formed a chamber music trio with the violinist Leonid Kogan (his brother-in-law) and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Gilels was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946.
Gilels had a stable and happy family life, marrying his second wife Fariset (Lala) Hutsistova, a graduate of Moscow Conservatoire, in 1947 and he lived with her all his life. They had a daughter, Elena, a pianist who graduated from Flier’s class at the Moscow Conservatoire, and who performed and recorded with her father. He was first married to pianist Rosa Tamarkina in 1940 and had a relationship with the nurse Bunya Marx in 1944.
Gilels was one of the first Soviet artists, along with David Oistrakh, allowed to travel and concertize in the West. His delayed American debut in 1955 playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in Philadelphia with Eugene Ormandy was a great success. His British debut in 1959 met with similar acclaim.
In 1952, he became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, where his students included Valery Afanassiev, Marina Goglidze-Mdivani and Felix Gottlieb. As chair of the jury of the International Tchaikovsky Competition at the sensational inaugural event in 1958, he awarded first prize to Van Cliburn. He presided over the competition for many years.
Gilels made his Salzburg Festival debut in 1969 with a piano recital of Weber, Prokofiev and Beethoven at the Mozarteum, followed by a performance of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto with George Szell and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Although paraded the world over as a Soviet loyalist, Gilels would occasionally confide his torments under the system to sympathetic fellow-artists.
In 1981, he suffered a heart attack after a recital at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and suffered declining health thereafter. He died unexpectedly during a medical checkup in Moscow on 14 October 1985, only a few days before his 69th birthday. Sviatoslav Richter, who knew Gilels well and was a fellow-student in the class of Heinrich Neuhaus at the Moscow Conservatory, believed that Gilels was killed accidentally when a drug was wrongly injected during a routine checkup, at the Kremlin hospital. However, Danish composer and writer Karl Aage Rasmussen, in his biography of Richter, denies this possibility and contends that it was just a false rumour.
Notable repertoire and assessment
Gilels is universally admired for his superb technical control and burnished tone.
He had an extensive repertoire, from baroque to late Romantic and 20th century classical composers. His interpretations of the central German-Austrian classics formed the core of his repertoire, in particular Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann; but he was equally illuminative with Scarlatti and 20th-century composers such as Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev. His Liszt was also first-class, and his recordings of the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 and the Sonata in B minor have acquired classic status in some circles.
He was in the midst of completing a recording cycle of Beethoven's piano sonatas for the German record company Deutsche Grammophon when he died. His recording of the "Hammerklavier" Sonata received a Gramophone Award in 1984.
Gilels recorded with his daughter Elena Gilels, including Mozart's double piano concerto with Karl Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic and Schubert's Fantasie in F minor for piano duet. He also made some outstanding chamber recordings with the violinist Leonid Kogan and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
Prizes, awards and honors
- Soviet Union
- 1st Prize, All-Soviet Union Piano Competition, 1933
- 2nd Prize, Vienna International Piano Competition, 1936
- 1st Prize, Concours Eugène Ysaÿe, Brussels, 1938
- Stalin Prize, USSR, 1946
- People's Artist of the USSR, 1954
- Three Orders of Lenin, USSR, including 1961
- Lenin Prize, 1962
- Hero of Socialist Labour
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour
- Order of the Friendship of Peoples
- Order of the Badge of Honour
- Order of Commandeur Mérite Culturel et Artistique de Paris, 1967
- Gold Medal of the City of Paris, France
- Order of Leopold (Belgium)
- Honorary Member, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome
- Honorary Member, Royal Academy of Music, London
- Honorary Professor, Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest
- 1935 – Liszt: Fantasia on Themes from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro.
- 1951 – Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9.
- 1954 – Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 (cond. Cluytens)*.
- 1954 – Medtner: Piano Sonata No. 5 in G Minor, Op. 22.
- 1955 – Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (cond. Cluytens).
- 1957 – Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 (cond. Ludwig).
- 1957 – Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 4 in F sharp major, Op. 30*.
- 1957 – Weinberg: Piano Sonata No. 4 in B Minor.
- 1958 – Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83 (cond. Reiner).
- 1961 – Prelude in B minor (J. S. Bach, arranged Siloti)* (Moscow)
- 1968 – Medtner: Piano Sonata No. 10 in A minor, Op. 38 No. 1. ("Sonata Reminiscenza")* (Moscow)
- 1968 – Liszt: Rhapsodie espagnole* (Leningrad)
- 1971 – Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83 (cond. Mario Rossi) (Köln)*.
- 1972 – Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Op. 44 (cond. Maazel).
- 1972 – Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 and Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83 (cond. Jochum).
- 1973 – Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 Appassionata.
- 1973 – Debussy: Images, Book 1*.
- 1973 – Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K595 (cond. Boehm).
- 1974 – Grieg: Lyric Pieces.
- 1974 – Prokofiev: Sonata No. 3 in a minor, Op. 28 (Köln)*.
- 1974 – Prokofiev: Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84.
- 1976 – Schubert: Forellenquintett ("Trout Quintet") Quintet for Piano, Violin, Violoncello, and Contrabass in A major D667 (with Amadeus Quartet)
- 1977 – Rachmaninoff, Prelude in C-sharp minor Op. 3 No. 2* (Moscow)
- 1978 – Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58.
- 1982 – Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 Hammerklavier (Berlin)
- 1984 – Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 Hammerklavier* (Moscow)
- 1984 – Scriabin: Third Sonata* (Moscow)
- Johnson, Hewlett (1941). The Soviet Power; the Socialist Sixth of the World. New York: International Publishers. p. 214. OCLC 407142.
- U.S.S.R. Speaks for Itself Volume Three: Democracy in Practice. London: Lawrence & Wishart. 1941. p. 46. OCLC 13487651.
- The Emil Gilels Project - Life
- Mach, Elyse (1991). Great Contemporary Pianists Speak for Themselves. New York: Dover Publications. p. 120. ISBN 0-486-26695-8.
- Gilels biography on Naxos.com
- Facsimile of Gilels's 1938 Ysaÿe Competition First Prize Certificate in: S. Khentova, Emil Gilels (unknown publisher, Moscow 1959).
- "Queen Elisabeth Music Competition prize winners since 1937" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-11-10. Michelangeli and Lympany took 7th and 2nd place respectively.
- "Emil Gilels Plays", Russian television documentary, VHS release on Japanese label IVC, cat. no. IVCV-64144
- The Emil Gilels Project
- Gilels, Emil (Grigor'yevich)[dead link]
- Richter, Sviatoslav; Bruno Monsaingeon, Stewart Spencer (trans.) (2001). Sviatoslav Richter: Notebooks and Conversations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 32. ISBN 0-691-07438-0.
- Karl Aage Rasmussen, "Sviatoslav Richter - Pianist", Northeastern University Press, 2010
- "Emil Gilels", In Memory of Emil Gilels, 2007. Accessed June 3, 2007.
- International Piano Quarterly, Winter 2001, Orpheus Publications Limited
- "Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84". Prokofiev.org. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
- Emil-Gilels.com - International web project in memoriam Emil Gilels
- Extensive discography
- In Memoriam - Emil Gilels, compiled by Christian Pohl