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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Song Transcriptions by Earl Wild
O Cease thy singing Op.4 No.4 (1893) [4.54]
To the Children Op.26 No.7  (1907)[4.33]
Do Not Grieve Op.14 No.8 (1894-96) [3.21]
On the Death of a Linnet Op.21 No.8 (1900-02) [4.31]
The Muse Op.34 No.1 (1912) [4.39]
Vocalise Op.34 No.14 1991 recording (1912)   [6.29]
Vocalise Op.34 No.14 1982 recording (1912)  [7.25]
In the Silent Night Op 4 No.3 (1893)  [4.50]
Floods of Spring Op.14 No.11 1991 recording (1894-96) [3.47]
Floods of Spring Op.14 No.11 1983 recording (1894-96) [3.40]
Dreams Op.38 No.5 (1916) [3.30]
Sorrow in Springtime Op.21 No.12 (1900-02) [4.01]
The Little Island Op.14 No.2 (1894-96)  [2.05]
Midsummer Nights Op.14 No.5 (1894-96)   [3.33]
In The Silent Night Op.4 No.3 1991 recording (1893) [4.29]
In The Silent Night Op.4 No.3 1983 recording (1893) [4.06]
Where Beauty Dwells Op.21 No.7 1982 recording (1900-02) [3.30]
Where Beauty Dwells Op.21 No.7 1983 recording (1900-02) [3.34]
Earl Wild (piano)
Recorded in New York City, July 1982, Fernleaf Abbey, Columbus Ohio, 1991 and in Montreal in concert in November 1983
IVORY CLASSICS 74001 [77.55]

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I suppose it’s possible to imagine transcriptions of Rachmaninov songs being done better than by Earl Wild but - well, no, on reflection, I don’t think it is. I remember when I listened to a recording of his transcription of a piece by Marcello – it was the adagio of the Oboe Concerto and is on Ivory’s Wild at 88 disc – not merely how beautiful it was but how beautifully crafted. Wild has been writing transcriptions for most of his adult life and this facility, this gift, augmented by an auspicious affinity with Rachmaninov’s music has led to this disc, much of which was recorded in July 1982 and first issued on LP. That material has been augmented by four tracks recorded in Ohio in 1991 and by three live performances from a Montreal concert in 1983. As a result there are three performances of an obvious Wild favourite, In The Silent Night, as well as two - very different – performances of Vocalise and equally two each of Where Beauty Dwells and Floods of Spring.

The results are entirely pianistic creations, each a kind of song without words, in which Wild had Rachmaninov’s own example to follow; the composer transcribed his own songs Daisies and Lilacs. Wild has followed a broadly Lisztian-Rachmaninovian course and each song is bathed in lyric warmth and passion. So for example one can admire the mournful inflexions of the left hand in O Cease thy singing or the concentrated prayerfulness of To the Children in which the melody moves to the bass and the right weaves roulades of decoratively expressive passagework over it. The repeated climaxes of Do Not Grieve reflect the exhortation of the poem – all texts are provided by the way, in English – and Wild brings out all the harmonic complexity in a setting such as The Muse Op.34 No.1, written in 1912. His Vocalise was a minute quicker in the later, 1991 recording, which adds to the tension, though that earlier side does sound a little tape hissy; there’s some residual high level hiss throughout in point of fact. Floods of Spring is an early setting and it matches the youthful spirit of the poem and its setting – truly verdant, open-hearted and lyric with plenty of drive and animation. Then there’s the gorgeous reverie of Dreams – as tempting in Wild’s hands as a narcotic. There’s also the suicide-abjuring power of Sorrow in Springtime, the controlled ecstasy of Midsummer Nights and the little tone poem that Wild makes of Where Beauty Dwells, full of harmonic beauty, finesse and colour. I prefer the Montreal Floods of Spring – it’s pretty much the same tempo as the 1981 studio recording but it’s more immediate and richer, in the same way that I prefer the same live concert’s version of Where Beauty Dwells which has slightly sharper accents and a tighter tempo.

With a typically helpful and attractive booklet from Ivory this is another of their frankly self-recommending Wild releases. If you want to sample, prepare to unravel Where Beauty Dwells and see if you don’t submit to Wild’s fabled charms.

Jonathan Woolf



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