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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Seasons Op. 37 bis
Nicolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)

Improvisation in B flat minor Op. 31/1
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

Pictures at an Exhibition
Earl Wild (piano)
Recorded London 1966 (Mussorgsky), New York 1969 (Medtner), New York 1976 (The Seasons)
IVORY CLASSICS 70903 [75.10]


Earl Wild made a number of recordings for Reader’s Digest over the years and two are herewith returned to the catalogue courtesy of Ivory Classics (the Medtner is not from the same source). The Mussorgsky was recorded in London in 1966 and the Tchaikovsky a decade later in New York – with the Medtner Improvisation dating from 1969. Taking Pictures first one must accede to Wild’s sometimes ripely romantic profile - there are moments when he bolsters the score with touches of his own – but also probably capitulate to his leonine pianism. The opening Promenade shows his rich and poetic tonal reserves – no hardening yet with grandly flourishing bass line. His Gnomus is properly malign, the Old Castle measured and Tuileries rippling delicately. His Bydlo is very quick and somewhat unvaried but The Market Place at Limoges has all the drive and verve one could want – as well as some breathtaking dynamic variations at speed. His Baba-Yaga is finely chiselled and rhythmically controlled and in the Great Gate he prefers a gradual screwing up of tension to intense and overwhelming drama. Some personalised touches here apart this is colourful and consonantly invigorating pianism.

The Seasons is intriguing coupling and receives a reading of great verve and élan. He takes quite a few relatively briskly – but as February demonstrates he has each movement under great control. May (Starlit Nights) is especially rich in sonorous depth and expressive nuance, Wild’s touch of memorable depth, whilst he brings grace and sheer charm to the Chopinesque Barcarolle of June. He hardly stints the compressed grandeur either, proving himself to be grandly seigniorial in the Hunt of September. The programme is completed by a superfine Medtner – note how deliciously he exploits the pesante moments.

Jonathan Woolf

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