Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fantasy in f,
Waltzes: in D?,
Ballade No. 4 in f,
Nocturnes: in c?,
Étude in G?,
Andante spianato and Grande polonaise,
Preludes: in C,
Earl Wild (pn)
IVORY 77002 (74:54)
These rare 1981 recordings were originally issued by Baldwin and re-released in part on a hard-to-find Audiofon LP. Only now, with Ivory’s new CD reissue, have the performances been widely available and discussed, drawing strongly disparate reactions from different critics. At one extreme,
’s Michael Ullmann (31:2) complained of Wild’s excessively romantic approach, “full of rubato, showy passagework, and fussy manipulation of what seem to me innocent lines.” In contrast, Jeremy Nicholas, writing in November’s
, called it “unmannered Chopin-playing at its best.”
My own reactions are far closer to Nicholas’s. These readings are, to be sure, romantic in the sense that the rhythms are seductively flexible (listen to the elegant lilt of the Waltz, op. 64/2), that inner lines sometimes emerge unexpectedly, and that Wild’s unparalleled control of both timbre and articulation brings a kaleidoscopic range of color. Then, too, the performances are, from time to time, “showy” in the unself-conscious joy with which Wild surfs over the music’s technical demands—I especially enjoyed the lift of the Polonaise. But there’s nothing self-indulgent here, for these romantic interventions are all held in check by a consistent intellectual focus.
We hear Wild’s concentration most vividly in the solidity and inevitability of the climaxes (the crushing conclusion of the Ballade No. 4, for instance, or crunch at the end of the Polonaise) and in the clarity of the gestures even in the most ferocious onslaughts of notes: his incendiary rip through the Prelude, op. 28/22, reveals the larger rhythmic units with bracing clarity. But the concentration marks the quieter music as well. Listen, for instance, to the exquisitely cool reading of the Nocturne, op. posth., the finely controlled melancholy of the Waltz, op. 69/1, or (most striking of all), the hauntingly expansive performance of the Prelude, op. 28/7: the music sometimes lingers but it never sags and it never turns sappy.
Aside from some pre-echo, the sound is excellent. All in all, indispensible for Wild fans, enthusiastically recommended for everyone else.
FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
Works on This Recording
Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49
Waltz No. 6 in D flat major, Op. 64, No. 1, "Minute"
Waltz No. 8 in A flat major, Op. 64, No. 3
Waltz No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2
Waltz No. 9 in A flat major, Op. 69, No. 1, "L'adieu"
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52
Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. posth.
Nocturne No. 4 in F major, Op. 15, No. 1
Nocturne No. 5 in F sharp major, Op. 15, No. 2
Nocturne No. 9 in B major, Op. 32, No. 1
12 Etudes, Op. 10: Etude No. 5 in G flat major, Op. 10, No. 5, "Black Keys"
Andante spianato and Grande polonaise brillante, Op. 22: Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22
24 Preludes, Op. 28: No. 1 in C major
24 Preludes, Op. 28: No. 7 in A major
24 Preludes, Op. 28: No. 22 in G minor
24 Preludes, Op. 28: No. 24 in D minor
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