Earl Wild in Concert, Volume I = HAYDN: Sonata No. 37 in D Major; MOZART: Variations on a Theme by Gluck, K. 455; Sonata No. 12 in F Major, K. 332; CLEMENTI: Sonata in D, Op. 40, No. 3; BUXTEHUDE: Suite in D Minor, BuxWV 233 – Earl Wild, piano

by | Apr 15, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Earl Wild in Concert, Volume I = HAYDN: Sonata No. 37 in D Major; MOZART: Variations on a Theme by Gluck, K. 455; Sonata No. 12 in F Major, K. 332; CLEMENTI: Sonata in D, Op. 40, No. 3; BUXTEHUDE: Suite in D Minor, BuxWV 233 – Earl Wild, piano

Ivory Classics 78001, 64:45 [Distr. by VAI Music] ****:

Culled from diverse, live concert venues 1951-1982, this disc celebrates the tireless virtuosity of American pianist Earl Wild (b. 1915) in repertory–excepting the Mozart K. 332–new to his extensive discography. As remastered by engineer Ed Thompson, the sound from each of the five concert halls proves pungently present, the Baldwin and Bosendorfer (in K. 332) reverberant and resonant in clarion tones without having become obtrusively percussive.

Wild opens with Haydn from the University of Maryland (20 July 1982), the Sonata in D Major, listed as No. 50 but the Hoboken XVI:37 designation.  Rife with detached notes, scale passages, repeated notes, and arpeggiated chords, it provides ample opportunity for bravura and speedy virtuosity. The middle movement in the tonic minor projects something of the expressive school instituted by the Bach sons.  The last movement filigree retains the terraced dynamics that two manuals from a harpsichord would provide, though Wild’s sinewy interpretation elicits enough sparks to suit the auditors.

Mozart’s Variations on a Theme from Gluck’s The Pilgrims to Mecca (1785) comes from an Ohio State University recital (11 January 1987), and rather “symphonic” treatment by Wild reminds us that this composition warranted Tchaikovsky’s orchestral coloring for his Op. 61 Suite in G Major. The theme and ten variants call upon Wild to provide a series of brilliant, mercurial character pieces, some of them operatic in a buffo mode, with sly mordents and right hand coloratura. Both playful and digitally ferocious, the last pages instigate deft running patterns over an Alberti bass as well as large, block chords to which Beethoven would attend with interest. The coda tumbles in fleert dexterity to a polished landing.

Clementi’s Sonata, Op. 40, No. 3 (1802) cannot easily decide if it wants the major or minor mode, and its main theme in Allegro section of the first movement bears a resemblance to Beethoven’s Pastoral Sonata, Op. 28. Earl Wild plays this astonishing and often bold work at the 92nd Street YMHA (25 October 1978) in a manner well suited to the fortepiano on which Clementi conceived it. Wild gives the relatively busy textures a sense of diaphanous fluency wherein the sectionalized writing appears easy and natural. The Adagio plays as an arioso duet that Mendelssohn would have found attractive. The aria becomes embellished, tenderly flamboyant, always touched by a strumming quality of the serenade. The duet motif carries into the energized, final Allegro, an Italian street-song in the manner of loosely built tarantella.

The “find” on this fine disc is the (16 November 1951) debut from Carnegie Hall of the Suite in D Minor by Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707) whom Bach much admired. The tape of the concert, recorded by the Voice of America, was discovered by Michael Rolland Davis. In slightly muffled sonics, Wild presents the six-movement suite as a study in keyboard “lute” tablature transcribed to the modern grand piano. The “broken-style” Allemande d’amour evolves into a romantic statement of sobriety and depth. The Courante enjoys many passing non-harmonic notes, and the pearly play lifts the tone of execution to the state of harpsichord clarity. The Double cascades with scales in opposite motion, the tempo breathless but not without piercing shape. The Sarabande d’amour provides the plaintive heart of the piece, a stately and tender moment of melancholy. Another poised Saraband ensues, to be followed by the perky Gigue, the hands in close imitation, the writing reminiscent of organ texture over a sustained pedal.

The Mozart F Major Sonata (1783) derives from Earl Wild’s appearance at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 25 September 1980. The Bosendorfer has a splendidly subdued resonance, the brilliant filigree of the first movement alternating with something like a hunting motif. Wild adds ornaments ad libitum in all three movements so to project the image of improvisation within a clearly defined structure.  Those accents made by thumb are clearly delineated, Wild’s pearly play again in nervously agitated evidence. The Adagio floats in a gossamer haze that Wild provides, its harmonic shifts subtle but palpably expressive in color and shifts of register. In the final Allegro assai Wild finds moments of genial, dancing playfulness alongside the dashing bravura of tumbling filigree, played without repeat. The four-note theme in the treble resonates over any number of cascades and ornaments whose stretti become quite daunting, except to Earl Wild.

–Gary Lemco

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