Wild proves his true virtuosity
Bradley Bolen | 05/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I agree completely with the editorial review above, but want to add that Wild makes listenable (and even beautiful) pieces with lots of dissonance, pieces that might sound much harsher and less interesting coming from a lesser pianist. This is one of my favorite albums of wild and crazy modern piano music (pun intended, of course)!"
Earl Wild Going Strong at 85!
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 01/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If the United States honored its artists as Japan does by naming them National Treasures, I have little doubt that Earl Wild would be so honored. He is a phenomenon who has been playing at the highest levels of artistry since the 1940s. This recital, recorded when he was approaching his 85th birthday, is case in point; he has since recorded a spectacular disc at age 88. The present disc includes three 20th century and one 21st century sonatas and it's a humdinger. The Barber, surprisingly, is a first performance by Wild. You'd never know it. He conquers it with ease and makes music of it, too. That fearsome fourth movement Fugue has made strong pianists quail, and one sometimes hears approximations of it but rarely does one hear such mastery. Wild plays it much more smoothly and even nonchalantly than his important predecessors like Horowitz, Cliburn and Browning. More important, though, is his feathery touch in the second movement; he makes Horowitz sound almost clumsy by comparison. This is a superb Barber, at least on a par with my prior favorite, issued only last year by Marc-André Hamelin.
The Stravinsky is a neoclassic gem, not often played these days, which is a shame. Wild has played it for years - I actually heard him play it in recital more than thirty years ago - and he handles the tricky rhythms and cross-rhythms with aplomb. The toccata-like counterpoint in the third movement goes like the wind in his hands.
The Hindemith Third Sonata (my favorite of his three) was given a legendary recording by Glenn Gould, and although Wild's take is somewhat more legato overall, it still has plenty of pizzazz. I've often thought that this was the most 'American' of Hindemith's works although he was still in Hitler's Germany when he wrote it.
The big surprise, and pleasure, here is Wild's own piano sonata, written just before this recording was made in 2000. It is a three movement work that partakes of just about all the possibilities for an American piano sonata. There are blues, salsa, straight-ahead jazz, as well as neoclassical elements. The third movement, the least successful of the the three, is called 'Toccata à la Ricky Martin.' Really! I frankly don't hear much of Ricky Martin here, and in my mind that's probably good. It's also not as Latin as one might expect. The highlight of the sonata is its second movement, a smoky blues.
This is a wonderful set of performances by America's grand old man of the piano.