P0534. EMIL GILELS & YAKOV ZAK (Piano, Four-Hands): Zauberflöte – Overture, K.620; Fantasia in f, K.608; Duettino Concertante, K.459; Fugue in c, K.426 (all Mozart); Variations for Two Pianos on a Theme of Beethoven (Saint-Saëns); w.Kondrashin Cond. USSR State Orch.: Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat, K.365 (Mozart). (England) Appian APR 5664, recorded 1949-50. Transfers by Bryan Crimp. - 5024709156641
"Zak died of a heart attack in his early sixties, allegedly brought on by KGB interrogation…his playing combines the refinement of, say, Samuil Feinberg with the muscularity of Gilels."
- Rob Cowan, GRAMOPHONE, Sept., 2007
"Yakov Zak was one of the greatest names in Soviet piano performing and teaching but remained little known abroad, with the possible exception of the United States. From a Jewish family in Odessa like Emil Gilels, three years his junior, he achieved skills worthy of the latter with whom he frequently played in duo. A student of Heinrich Neuhaus, 1st Prize at the Chopin Competition in 1937, with special mention for his interpretation of the mazurkas, his vast repertoire concentrated on Beethoven – late Sonatas, Diabelli Variations – Schubert, Chopin, of course, Brahms with the two Concerti, Rachmaninov's 4th Concerto – preceding Michelangeli – Prokofiev and Medtner, whom he defended with Gilels. Endowed with Olympian technique and a clear, solid sense of form, he remains a model, a humanist whose current discography is amazingly meagre. He died of a heart attack on 28 June 1976, the day after a brutal police interrogation."
"That Gilels and Zak began performing together is perhaps not surprising as they both grew up in Odessa and then moved to Moscow to study with Neuhaus, however it was probably the Second World War, and their confinement to the Soviet Union where there was a need for morale boosting concerts, which brought the duo together in a partnership which lasted about ten years. With the exception of a performance of Carnival of the Animals their complete recordings are featured here, and a fascinating selection they are. Gilels was one of the few Russian pianists who played Mozart successfully and these recordings, either as original works, or transcribed by Busoni, present both pianists revelling in an easy virtuosity and joie-de-vivre. The disc is completed with Saint-Saëns’ masterly ‘Variations on a theme of Beethoven’, a work less well known than it should be - or would be, were it not written for two pianos. Perhaps surprisingly, its very French brilliance seems particularly suited to these two Russians!"
- APR - The Russian Piano Tradition