Redemption of the Transcription
Stan VanSandt | Austin, Texas | 02/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Be prepared: the first piece on this album weaves such a magical spell that you may be startled out of your chair by the applause at the end. The bulk of this collection is from a concert performance, and it was a humdinger. Wild not only displays his astonishing virtuosity, but demonstrates that many of these arrangements and transcriptions are valuable pieces of music in their own right. The Rameau becomes 20th-century neoclassicism through Godowsky and Wild. The Arabesques on the Blue Danube Waltzes becomes a more serious piece than the original ever was. And so on: the bottom line is it's an experience that you don't want to miss. The real gems of this collection, however, are not from the live recital: what I find myself going back to again and again are the Gershwin transcriptions by Wild himself. Breath-taking virtuosity, fascinating arrangements, a beautiful recorded sound, and some great tunes!"
Alex | London, United Kingdom | 01/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A very interesting pianist, this. He's an entertainer as well as a serious musician and he plays entertaining pieces. He is also a first class composer of transcriptions. Some of his charming Gershwin transcriptions (for which he is rightly famous) are included on this CD.
Earl Wild has an interesting pedigree in pianistic terms, having studied (if only briefly) with one of Liszt's many pupils. Technically he is often excellent, but some pieces seem to fall more easily under his fingers than others. For example, on another CD he makes rather a meal of Liszt's Grande Galope Chromatique but on this CD he plays superbly the fiendishly difficult Rachmaninoff arrangement of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo - a piece which never lets up in its demand for a deft touch, accuracy and speed. Whatismore, the Scherzo is recorded live, so no editing and barely a single wrong note or misplaced phrase. Bear in mind that Rachmaninoff himself is reputed to have had three takes at it before ending up with a recording he was satisfied with! Overall I don't think Wild has the same order of technical ability as Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Rubinstein, Barere or Cziffra but he does demonstrate the vital ability to make certain pieces sound "right" in his hands. This certainly doesn't manifest itself in everything he plays, but more in the pieces where he seems to feel at home.
He has obviously put a lot of thought and work into some of these recordings and I would single out the Schubert-Tausig March, Rigaudon, the Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo, his Gershwin and Tschaikovsky transcriptions and the Blue Danube arabesques as particularly charming and well-performed. I doubt anyone could play his beautiful Embraceable You transcription as well as him. The 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody is also good - solidly played and with plenty of gypsy spirit, and he doesn't pull the piece about all over the place like most pianists do. And the Bumblebee isn't bad either. Also excellent is Gluck's Melodie d'Orphee. He plays this beautifully with exquisitely judged balance and tone. It's a shame some of the other pieces aren't quite as good - Isolde's Liebestod is off target, unfortunately.
I think Earl Wild was one of the great transcribers and it's a shame he didn't write a lot more transcriptions because each one is a beautiful addition to the piano literature. His short and sweet transcription of the Pas de Quatre from Swan Lake (which he plays on this CD) is a total masterpiece. He also dared to play entertaining pieces and to indulge in showmanship, and why not? Why should a concert be a dry lecture? Yes, he is one of the great pianists but not because he had a unique sound or technique - more because he was a great and daring performer and because he made a contribution to piano literature for which the world ought to be grateful."
G. Greene | 07/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an incredible CD, marred only by audience coughing and the unnecessary, deafening applause at the end of most cuts, reminiscent of a sitcom laugh track (hence the 4 star rating instead of 5); otherwise, it would have been perfect. The excellent selection of music and Wild's virtuoso playing are both marvelous. I was particularly taken with the Bach fuge and the splendid Gershwin transcriptions. Don't miss this one!"