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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
The 1981 Baldwin Recordings
Fantasie in F minor, Op. 49 (1841) [11:50]
Waltz in D flat major, Op. 64/1 ‘Minute’ (1846-47) [1:41]
Waltz in A flat major, Op. 64/3 (1846-47) [2:40]
Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64/2 (1846-47) [3:21]
Waltz in A flat, ‘L’Adieu’ Op. 69/1 (1835) [3:39]
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 (1842-43) [11:00]
Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. posth [4:10]
Nocturne in F major, Op. 15/1 (1830-32) [4:21]
Nocturne in F sharp major, Op. 15/2 (1830-32) [3:34]
Nocturne in B major, Op. 32/1 (1837) [5:28]
Étude in G flat major ‘Black Key’, Op. 10/5 (1830) [1:40]
Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22 (1834) [13:31]
Prelude in C major ‘Reunion’, Op. 28/1 (1838-39) [1:11]
Prelude in A major ‘The Polish Dance’, Op. 28/7 (1838-39) [2:05]
Prelude in G minor ‘Impatience’, Op. 28/22 (1838-39) [0:39]
Prelude in D minor ‘The Storm’, Op. 28/24 (1838-39) [2:21]
Earl Wild (piano)
rec. 1981, Guzman Hall, University of Miami, USA.  ADD
IVORY CLASSICS 77002 [74:54]
 
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
The Complete Etudes
Twelve Études (Studies), Op. 10 (1829-32):
C major, Op. 10/1 [2:15]
A minor, Op. 10/2 [1:35]
E major, ‘Tristesse’ Op. 10/3 [4:26]
C sharp minor, Op. 10/4 [2:07]
G flat major, ‘Black Key’ Op. 10/5 [1:43]
E flat minor, Op. 10/6 [3:35]
C major, Op. 10/7 [1:36]
F major, Op. 10/8 [2:26]
F minor, Op. 10/9 [2:04]
A flat major, Op. 10/10 [2:09]
E flat major, Op. 10/11 [2:30]
C minor, ‘Revolutionary’ Op. 10/12 [2:32]
Twelve Études (Studies), Op. 25 (1832-36):
A flat major, ‘Aeolian Harp’ Op. 25/1 [2:40]
F minor, ‘Les Abeilles’ Op. 25/2 [1:30]
F major, Op. 25/3 [1:51]
A minor, Op. 25/4 [1:51]
E minor, Op. 25/5 [3:11]
G sharp minor, Op. 25/6 [2:02]
C sharp minor, Op. 25/7 [5:03]
D flat major, Op. 25/8 [1:10]
G flat major, ‘Butterfly’ Op. 25/9 [0:58]
B minor, Op. 25/10 [3:46]
A minor, ‘Winter Wind’ Op. 25/11 [3:38]
C minor, Op. 25/12 [2:39]
Trois Nouvelles Études (1839):
No. 1 in F minor [2:15]
No. 2 in A flat major [1:46]
No. 3 in D flat major [1:48]
Earl Wild (piano)
rec. 8-12 June 1992, Fernleaf Abbey, Columbus, Ohio, USA.  DDD
IVORY CLASSICS 76003 [66:48]
 
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Scherzos and Ballades
Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20 (1831) [9:12]
Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31 (1837) [8:55]
Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39 (1839) [6:38]
Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Op. 54 (1843) [10:28]
Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23 (1835-36) [8:40]
Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38 (1836-39) [7:26]
Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47 (1841) [6:54]
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 (1842-43) [10:27]
Earl Wild (piano)
rec. 7-10 May 1990, Fernleaf Abbey, Columbus, Ohio, USA.  DDD
IVORY CLASSICS 75001 [68:40]
Experience Classicsonline


Chopin’s works are canons buried among flowers.” Robert Schumann (1836)
 
Marketed by the Ivory Classics label as 'The Romantic Master', Earl Wild the American pianist and composer was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1915. Pursuing an exceptionally long performing career of eight decades he is recognised as one of the foremost piano virtuoso of his generation. The booklet notes state that he is, “Considered by many to be the last of the great Romantic pianists.” Wild, a winner at the 39th Grammy® Awards for his recording of ‘Virtuoso Piano Transcriptions’, is renowned for his extraordinary keyboard mastery and is revered in America. However from my experience he is not as well known in Britain and Europe as his playing deserves.
 
Earl Wild: Chopin - The 1981 Baldwin Recordings
The title of the disc refers to Earl Wild’s association with the Baldwin Piano Company from New York City. They recorded six Baldwin performers on LPs to be given away by their dealers to buyers of a Baldwin piano and not intended for commercial public circulation. For his recording session, in 1981 at the University of Miami, the sixty-six year old Earl Wild used a Baldwin SD-10 piano. The other Baldwin pianists: Jorge Bolet, Ruth Laredo, David Barillan and Gilbert Kalish did not use the same piano for their recordings. Wild recorded an all-Chopin programme, although, there was a separate compilation LP of the performances of all six players entitled ‘The Essential Piano Library’ given away to libraries. A couple of years later Baldwin allowed Audiofon Records to release Earl Wild’s acclaimed Chopin recordings commercially, however, not all the works from the sessions would fit on the LP. This disc from Ivory Classics is the first time that all the Chopin material from Earl Wild’s legendary Baldwin Recordings from 1981 at the Guzman Hall has been available on compact disc.
 
The first work on the sixteen track disc is the Fantasie in F minor in which Wild impressively captures the myriad moods and brings significant insights to the score. Other notable tracks includes the ‘MinuteWaltz Op. 64/1 where one can easily imagine an excitable dog chasing his tail. The Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64/2 is interpreted as a highly seasoned score bursting briskly with vast resources of energy. Revealed by the soloist as an elegant score the Waltz in A flat major, ‘L’Adieu’ Op. 69/1 is evocative of models at a haute couture fashion show. In the substantial Ballade No. 4, often regarded as Chopin’s greatest Ballade, Wild successfully blends irresistible melody with considerable grandeur. In the celebrated Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. posth he conveys a convincing dark foreboding. In the highly melodious Nocturne in F sharp major Earl Wild reveals heady emotions that could easily represent a secret love affair. The Etude in G flat major, known as the ‘Black Key’, one of my favourite Chopin scores, is played with reasonable vigour and a sense of fun bordering on hilarity. Carrying the grand title the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22 is a substantial score in two sections where the Andante Spianato segues into the Grande Polonaise Brillante. With the pastoral character of the lovely Andante Spianato Wild paints the scene of a brook flowing through green meadows. By contrast the Grande Polonaise Brillante contains a copious degree of drama. Earl Wild interprets the Prelude in A major The Polish Dance’, Op. 28/7 most sedately, losing its dance-like delicacy and charm and bordering on the funereal. The rumbling Prelude in D minor The Storm’, Op. 28/24 is relentlessly evocative of a wild and stormy night.
 
For Ivory Classics the 1981 recorded sound, remastered using 24-bit power, is bright, clear and decently balanced. Some slight background hiss has been retained and the sound would I feel have benefited from a touch more depth. The liner-notes including the interesting and informative essay by James E. Frazier provide a high quality of scholarship. 
 
Earl Wild: Chopin - The Complete Études
The complete Études (Studies) were recorded and originally released in 1992 when Wild was seventy-seven. Again Wild favoured a Baldwin piano for the Columbus recording sessions. The first set of twelve Études, Op. 10 (1829-32) was published as such in 1833 and was dedicated by Chopin to Franz Liszt. The second set of twelve Études, Op. 25 (1832-36) was published as a single volume in 1837 bearing the dedication to Franz Liszt’s mistress Countess Marie d’Agoult. In 1840 Ignaz Moscheles and François-Joseph Fétis published their celebrated piano instruction book Méthode des Méthodes de piano (Method of Methods for the Piano). Chopin’s Trois Nouvelles Études (Three New Études) were composed in 1839 as his contribution to the supplementary volume to the Méthode. Although the Trois Nouvelles Études were actually published in Chopin’s lifetime in 1840 it was thought - incorrectly - that they had been published as posthumous works.
 
Of the Twelve Études, Op. 10 (1829-32) Earl Wild’s interpretation of the Étude in C major, Op. 10/1 is noteworthy with his right hand arpeggios sounding like waves lapping on the shore. The soloist in the Étude in A minor, Op. 10/2 has a scurrying quality that feels like a fiendishly difficult exercise. I was impressed by the fun and frolics with the black notes in the ‘Black KeyÉtude in G flat major, Op. 10/5. One senses that Wild is less comfortable with the serious and nervous temperament of the Étude in E flat minor, Op. 10/6 than my benchmark interpretations from Murray Perahia on Sony Classical and Maurizio Pollini on Deutsche Grammophon. With the repeated notes and arpeggios of the tempestuous Étude in F minor, Op. 10/9 the soloist communicates anger and frustration. A strong feel of the parlour expressed by the Étude in A flat major, Op. 10/10 does not convey the technical difficulties of the study. The final work of the opus 10 set is the appropriately titled ‘RevolutionaryÉtude in C minor, Op. 10/12. Chopin was inspired to write the C minor by the invasion of Warsaw by the Russian army and Wild does not fail in providing power and tension in profusion.
 
In first of the Twelve Études, Op. 25 the Étude in A flat major, Op. 25/1, known as the ‘Aeolian Harp’, one marvels at the splendid embellishments and other wizardry that Chopin demands. In the Étude in F minor, Op. 25/2 known by the sobriquet of ‘Les Abeilles’ (The Bees) Wild convincingly suggests a picture of insects in flight and in the Étude in A minor, Op. 25/4 one feels the temperament of this restless and nervy study. His interpretation of the Étude in E minor, Op. 25/5 is evocative of birds darting around foraging for food. Unlike some performers he chooses not to accentuate the attractive melody in the central section. The brief Étude in G flat major, Op. 25/9 titled ‘Butterfly’ is a jovial and swift piece that contrasts with the frenzied attack by Wild in the Étude in B minor, Op. 25/10. The B minor study has a melodic central section that provides a welcome respite. I enjoyed the playing of the Étude in A minor, Op. 25/11 titled ‘Winter Wind’, a complex and turbulent work that sends a chill down the spine. The final piece of the opus 25 set is the Étude in C minor, Op. 25/12 that is noteworthy for its rapid left and right hand arpeggios over a noble melody.
 
With the Trois Nouvelles Études I particularly enjoyed the Slavic feel to the forthright Étude, No. 1 in F minor. In the Étude, No. 2 in A flat major Wild imparts a disconcerted and restless quality and in the Étude, No. 3 in D flat major a generally pensive mood is established with undercurrents of petulance.
 
This Ivory Classics release was recorded by Earl Wild in 1992 at Fernleaf Abbey, Columbus, Ohio. The digital quality of this 20-bit State-of-the-Art Original recording is of a high standard, being especially bright and clear with an impressive balance. For those technically minded we are informed that the recording has been remastered at 24-bit using the SADiE Artemis High Resolution digital workstation. James E. Frazier again provides the liner-notes and essay; a model of the finest annotation.
 
Wild with this complete set of Études is up against extremely strong competition. There are magnificent sets from Perahia on Sony Classical and Pollini on Deutsche Grammophon that rank amongst their finest recordings (see details below). In the Études Perahia is highly compelling, displaying remarkable pianism with a broad expressive range. The digital sound on Perahia’s Sony recording has outstanding presence and clarity. Pollini’s magisterial accounts of the Études are brilliantly characterised totally engaging the listener. I found the admirable analogue sonics for Pollini on Deutsche Grammophon of eminent quality being especially cool and clear.  
 
Earl Wild: Chopin - Scherzos and Ballades
I especially enjoyed Earl Wild’s recital of Chopin’s 4 Ballades and 4 Scherzos. This is one of the finest recordings of these scores that I have heard and are worthy of a place in any collection.
 
In the Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20 Wild provides an abundance of drama amid the intensity of the anger and power. Glorious melody abounds in the Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31 with playing from the American soloist that is delicious one minute and bursting with ferocious power the next. The performance of the Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39 conveys darkness and scorn with the smooth coolness of a block of polished marble. With his expressive playing of the Scherzo No. 4 Wild communicates spirited humour with a darting sense of restlessness.
 
This is a highly impressive recital of an elevated standard that will delight and satisfy most listeners. I remain a strong advocate of Artur Rubinstein’s remarkably compelling 1959 New York City performances of the Scherzos. These acclaimed recordings are available on a marvellously re-mastered RCA Victor Red Seal Living Stereo SACD 82876-61396-2 RE1 (c/w 4 Ballades) and also on RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63045-2 (c/w 4 Ballades and Tarantelle).
 
The Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23 is given a performance that abounds in incident. We hear an exciting amalgam of passion, vigour, poignancy, athleticism, tenderness and impulsiveness; rather like the life story of an intrepid adventurer. The playing of the Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38 contrasts beauty and delicacy with a wild storminess. In the Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47 the soloist evokes the innocence and emotional reassurance of the infant’s nursery against a character of flamboyant impulsivity. Irresistibly enchanting, the Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 in this interpretation has a highly perfumed, dance-like quality.
 
Wild recorded this recital for Ivory Classics in 1990 at Fernleaf Abbey, Columbus, Ohio. I was impressed by the high standard sonics that are bright, vividly clear and well balanced. The ample booklet contains an interesting essay of the Scherzos and Ballades by Christopher Weiss together with a biography of the pianist. 
 
My longstanding benchmark recording of Chopin’s 4 Ballades are the magnificent performances from Arthur Rubinstein that he made in 1959 at New York City. Rubinstein’s interpretations are truly magical and I find it hard to imagine that I will hear playing that contains more poetry and expression. The Rubinstein recordings are available on RCA Victor Red Seal Living Stereo SACD 82876-61396-2 RE1 (c/w 4 Scherzos) and also on RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63045-2 (c/w 4 Scherzos and Tarantelle).
 
Perahia also greatly excels in Chopin’s 4 Ballades. He recorded them in 1994 in Switzerland. I admire his expansive lyricism that combines power with sensitivity in what is arguably Perahia’s finest recorded recital. It is available on Sony Classical SK 64399 (c/w selection of Nocturnes; Etudes; Mazurkas etc).
 
In the performances of these three ‘all Chopin’ discs I did not experience any excessive showmanship, outsized personality or contrivance. Wild’s playing seems to evolve from his inherent feel for the music. It is often understated yet radiates a sense of instinctive individuality. At times I demanded more extremes of dynamic yet the personality of the playing greatly satisfies owing predominantly to the immense integrity of these cultivated interpretations. On a general level if one requires their Chopin performances to have additional servings of passion, vitality and drama one needs to hear interpretations from Murray Perahia, Maurizio Pollini, Grigory Sokolov and Martha Argerich. For those needing accomplished artistry and a special sense of poetry the playing of Artur Rubinstein is essential listening. I class Rubinstein as the consummate Chopin interpreter and at times marvel at the extent of his imagination, his lightness of touch and the poetry he brings to his interpretations. The warm and thoughtful playing of Claudio Arrau shares similar values to those of Rubinstein. One might also consider the talents of Vladimir Horowitz, a performer who is renowned for his remarkable insights and technique, and also Dinu Lipatti's scrupulous and subtle performances.
 
Over the years I have assembled an extensive collection of Chopin recordings and there are many wonderful interpretations available in the catalogues. My particular favourites are shown below. These three recital discs are not my first choice recommendations, however, they are splendidly performed. I’m sure that I will return to them often; especially the version of the Scherzos and Ballades.
 
Michael Cookson

 
Note
I recommend the following recordings of works contained on these Ivory Classics discs.
 
Waltzes:
a) Artur Rubinstein recorded 14 Waltzes in 1963 at Rome for RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63047-2 (c/w Impromptus; Fantaisie Impromptu and Bolero).  
b) Claudio Arrau recorded 14 Waltzes in 1979 at Switzerland for Philips 400 025-2.
c) Dinu Lipatti recorded 13 Waltzes at his final recital in 1950 live at the Besançon Festival for EMI Classics ‘Great Artists of The Century’ 5 62819 2 (c/w Bach Partita No. 1; Mozart Piano Sonata No. 8, K310 and Schubert Impromptus No. 3 and No. 2, D899).   
Ballades:
a) Artur Rubinstein recorded 4 Ballades in 1959 at New York City for RCA Victor Red Seal Living Stereo SACD 82876-61396-2 RE1 (c/w 4 Scherzos) also on RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63045-2 (c/w 4 Scherzos and Tarantelle).
b) Murray Perahia recorded 4 Ballades in 1994 in Switzerland for Sony Classical SK 64399 (c/w selection of Nocturnes; Etudes; Mazurkas etc).
Nocturnes:
a) Artur Rubinstein recorded 19 Nocturnes in 1965 at Rome, a two disc set for RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63049-2.
b) Claudio Arrau recorded 21 Nocturnes in 1978 at Amsterdam for Philips ‘50 Great Performances’ 464 694-2 (c/w Barcarolle and Fantaisie).
Preludes:
a) Maurizio Pollini recorded 24 Preludes, Op. 28 in 1974 at Munich for Deutsche Grammophon 413 796-2.
b) Claudio Arrau recorded 24 Preludes, Op. 28 in 1973 at Amsterdam for Philips ‘The Originals’ 475 7768 (c/w Impromptus 1-4; Preludes No. 25 and No. 26 ).
c) Martha Argerich recorded 24 Preludes, Op. 28 in 1975 at Munich for Deutsche Grammophon 463 663-2 (c/w Preludes No. 25 and No. 26, Piano Sonata No. 2).
d) Grigory Sokolov recorded 24 Preludes, Op. 28 in 1990 at Paris for Naïve Records OP 30336.
Études:
a) Murray Perahia recorded 12 Études, Op. 10 and 12 Études, Op. 25 in 2001 in London for Sony Classical SK 61885.
b) Maurizio Pollini recorded 12 Études, Op. 10 and 12 Études, Op. 25 in 1972 at Munich for Deutsche Grammophon 413 794-2.
Scherzos:
a) Artur Rubinstein recorded 4 Scherzos in 1959 at New York City for RCA Victor Red Seal Living Stereo SACD 82876-61396-2 RE1 (c/w 4 Ballades) also on RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63045-2 (c/w 4 Ballades and Tarantelle)



 


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