By the time that pianists Friedrich Gulda and Chick Corea gathered for a marathon two-and-a-half hour joint recital at the Munich Klaviersommer Festival on 27 June 1982, both musicians were already internationally-renowned in their respective domains: the Austrian Gulda (1930– 2000) as a critically-acclaimed concert pianist, composer, and jazz crossover artist and the American Corea (b. 1941) for his work with Miles Davis between 1968 and 1970 and his pioneering jazz fusion work as leader of the band Return to Forever. Both musicians had integrated jazz, rock, and classical styles (among others) and championed improvisation as one of the highest musical arts. In this magnificent three-part recital, the massive audience that crammed into the Congress Room of the German Mu seum that afternoon—and later listeners who encountered the 1983 Philips LP made from the concert recording—were treated to a masterclass in musical improvisation as both Gulda and Corea offered solo recitals of improvised and semi-composed music followed by a nearly hour-long improvised musical conversation. In this newly-released live concert film, viewers are granted special access to these two world-class musicians as they worked [End Page 617] communicate musically and physically with one another, despite having never met prior to the recital.
Gulda’s solo recital revealed the strong influence of the western classical repertory— and especially the music of the First Viennese School—on his musicianship. His insertion of Mozart’s C major piano sonata, K. 330, into the middle of his opening paraphrase on his 1981 composition Concerto for Ursula offers a texturally complex performance despite occasional technical mis-steps, and his Aria sounds as though it could have been excerpted from a Mozart opera. Moreover, his 1965 Prelude and Fugue, heard near the end of his program, reveals the strong influence of Bach on his compositional approach while also resonating with other jazz-classical hybrids from the mid-1960s, most notably Hank Levy’s Passacaglia and Fugue, performed by the Don Ellis Orchestra at the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival.
Unlike Gulda’s recital, which made use of some precomposed music, Corea’s entirely improvised program offers a glimpse into his rich musical vocabulary and remarkable keyboard technique. Particularly noteworthy here is his take on Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight, which here emerges from a translucent, Latin-inspired improvisation based only loosely on the tune and culminates in several engaging choruses on the standard. The remainder of his program, comprised of three untitled improvisations, features Corea’s effortless interpolations of Latin, jazz, classical, and avant garde styles, betraying both the depth and breadth of his musical influences.
While both solo recitals are remarkable in their own right, the highlight of the concert is the joint recital in which Gulda and Corea engage in delightful musical conversations over Some Day My Prince Will Come, Put Your Little Foot Right Out, and Fritz Pauer’s Poem No. 3, concluding with a brief tag on Brahms’ Wiegenlied. In addition to offering stunning images of both musicians, the film’s beautifully remastered footage is carefully edited to allow momentary glimpses into their creative processes, and frequent shots of the musician’s facial expressions and other nonverbal gestures provide insight into the communicative challenges and complexities surrounding such challenging musical collaborations. Consequently, “The Meeting” is essential viewing for anyone interested in improvised music, and fans of Corea will be delighted by the high-quality footage offered here.