Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Toccata in C op. 7, Etudes Symphoniques op. 13 (including 5 posthumous variations), Fantaisie in C, op. 17
Earl Wild (piano)
Recorded at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, September 19th 1974 (op. 7 - live), Fernleaf Abbey, Columbus, Ohio, October 2nd 1990 (op. 13), October 3rd (op. 17)
IVORY CLASSICS 64405-71001 [72í 45"]


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Not much to say about most of this except that itís just marvellous! Earl Wild has been known to us for decades as technically one of the finest-equipped pianists around, with maybe a suspicion that he was at his best unravelling impossibly complicated works of the old virtuoso school, tossing them off with a rare abandon, rather than as a profound interpreter of the basic classics. The confident, up-front but rather noisy performance of the Toccata from a live concert in London might seem to bear this out, though this is a difficult piece to humanise. The 1990 studio recordings suggest that, if the suspicion was ever founded, old age has brought a mellowing and a deepening without any loss of technical armoury.

Most remarkable of all is the Fantaisie. Wild knows when to surge forward, when to relax, when to melt and dream. His basic tempo in the first movement may seem fast, but it is very close to Schumannís own markings, and the way in which Wild manages to breathe in this tempo, to drift away from it and then come to it without losing sight of the overall structure is sheer mastery. Sheer mastery of another kind is to be heard in his ability to clarify the most teeming textures and to produce a sound that is always rounded and singing in the heaviest passages. The second movement is properly exuberant (no heavy-footed march, this) and the steadily growing fires of the finale are expressed with much poetry. This performance goes straight among the elite.

The inclusion of the five posthumous variations (which Schumann himself removed) in the Etudes Symphoniques is theoretically not such a brilliant idea since they are more conventional in style than those of the "approved" version which is therefore stronger. But anything written by Schumann is surely worth knowing and they could not find a better advocate. Wild is the master of every mood, from mercurial to passionate, from stormy to inwardly romantic.

With recordings worthy of the occasion, this is essential for all who love the piano, Schumann or both.

Christopher Howell

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